Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Minority language statement

Politicians from Slovakia and Hungary have clashed over the issue of minority language rights, during a debate in the European Parliament on 24 November 2009.

Under Article 22 of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, there is a provision for respect of minority languages used in Europe.

However a new law in Slovakia encourages use of Slovak in areas of the country where many ethnic minorities, particularly Hungarians, live.

However Slovak MEPs speaking in the debate said their language law was "mild", and denied it was discriminatory against ethnic Hungarians.

Elsewhere in the debate, the situation of Catalan speakers in Spain and Russian speakers in Latvia was raised.

Welsh Conservative MEP Kay Swinburne praised efforts to promote use of the Welsh language.

The EU funds projects to promote regional minority languages, such as the European minority language song contest , and participation at the UN forum on minorities.

The European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages was set up to try and oversee policies on regional languages.

Regional languages spoken in the EU include Gaelic (Scotland), Occitan (France), Sámi (Scandinavia) and Sorbian (Germany).

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