Page last updated at 13:57 GMT, Thursday, 20 November 2008

'Historic' use of Welsh in EU

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The Welsh Assembly Government pays for extra translation costs

Welsh has been used officially for the first time in a meeting of European Union ministers.

The move has been hailed as historic and follows years of campaigning for Welsh to be recognised in the EU.

Wales' Culture Minister Alun Ffred Jones is leading the UK delegation in Brussels and spoke in Welsh in the Council of Ministers.

His first words in Welsh to the Council of Ministers were: "Diolch madam llywydd (thank you madam chair) ..."

The extra costs of translation are being borne by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Welsh will not be added to the list of the EU's 23 official languages, but it will mean speeches can be given in Welsh and translated.

Alun Ffred Jones used Welsh for the first time at the EU Council of Ministers

The council of ministers meeting included a discussion of multi-culturalism.

Welsh has been accepted as a "co-official" language in the council of ministers.

But campaigning continues for co-official status in other EU institutions so that people can correspond in Welsh and receive replies in the language.

He said before the meeting: "Welsh is one of Europe's oldest languages and I am delighted that my ministerial colleagues from across the union will hear it as a living and dynamic language of business."

'Exciting'

Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans launched a campaign in 2005 for Welsh to be given the same status as Galician, Catalan and Basque.

"This is very exciting and a historic step," she said.

"I have been an MEP for almost 10 years and I never thought then that this would have been possible."

Jill Evans has already addressed the European parliament in Welsh, without translation in response to a speech by former prime minister Tony Blair.

She has asked public bodies in Wales to join her campaign for the use of Welsh in all the EU institutions as well as for the right of Welsh speakers to communicate with them in the language.

The EU has 23 official languages, among them Slovak, Slovene and Maltese.

EU rules only have legal effect once they have been translated into all of the official languages and incorporated into national laws.

It costs 1bn euros a year (841m) to translate speeches and official texts generated by the EU institutions.

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