Linguistic discrimination is a form of racism that is spreading like an epidemic in Europe – pointed out Secretary General of the European Language Equality Network, David Hicks during the 17 March meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). During the debate on minority language rights infringements MEP Csaba Sógor also commented on the topic, stating that a large part of language rights mostly exist only on paper in Romania.
There are 60 regional or minority languages in Europe: 10% of the population, at least 55 million European citizens, speak a minority language. "Entire European communities could disappear if we suppress the use of minority languages" – explained David Hicks, listing language use right infringements form Catalonia. He pointed out that only between July 2013 and December 2015 there have been 37 such violations in Catalonia. Although Catalan is an official language, those who use it are often stigmatized and 80% of the infringements happen in public institutions: schools, healthcare facilities, police stations and court rooms.
"It would be lengthy to present the French, Greek, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Slovakian and Romanian situations in detail, it should suffice to say that language right infringements are common in all these member states" – pointed out Csaba Sógor. The RMDSZ MEP described the situation from Romania, saying that since 2001 the mother tongue of national minority communities can be used in public administration where the said national minority makes up at least 20% of the total population. “In spite of the legislation the use of mother tongue in public administration does not work in Romania. Citizens often do not dare to stand up for their rights because they may even be harassed by the state for wanting to exercise their rights to use their mother tongues” – said the MEP. Csaba Sógor stressed: the rights of European citizens are violated when language rights are infringed upon. If we stand up for the rights of refugees, we cannot stand by idly when the rights of national minorities making up 10% of the EU's population are infringed upon on a daily basis.
Several participants at the meeting agreed that there is need for an EU legal framework that could oblige Member States to protect language rights.