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Endangered Languages of the Eastern Mediterranenan

21.05.2012 Address by Mr. Georgios Markopouliotis, Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, on Monday, 21 May 2012, 18:00, at the University of Cyprus, Nicosia.

Dear Minister of Education and Culture, Dear Mr Dimosthenous,
Dear Rector of the University of Cyprus, Dear Mr Christofides,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be here today. I would like to congratulate the organizers for this conference. At challenging times like these, culture and civilization are a valuable shelter for all of us.

This is especially true for languages. Endangered languages in particular represent our heritage, and it is our duty to protect them.

The European Union realises that and has policies towards the protection of regional, minority and endangered languages. This is  enshrined in Article 22 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights which states that “The Union respects cultural, religious and linguistic diversity”.

In 1992, the European Commission initiated a detailed study of minority language groups in the European Union.

A further study, using the same framework, was completed following the 1995 enlargement of the EU, when Austria, Finland and Sweden joined as Member States.

This was followed by additional studies in 2004 and 2009, carried out in the 12 new countries who had joined the EU. The team of experts and scientists who carried out the study also drafted a comparative summary providing a general overview of the situation in the new Member States and a comparison with the fifteen pre-enlargement Member States.

The EU also funds the Mercator Network of Language Diversity. This is a project connecting multilingual communities across Europe, promoting knowledge sharing and facilitating structured exchange of best practice and cutting edge initiatives through its programme of activities. Focus lies on multilingual regions dealing with regional or minority languages, but also immigrant languages and smaller state languages, with emphasis on language needs arising from migration and globalisation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Endangered languages face many challenges in today's fast-changing, globalized, world. Cyprus knows that well, since Cypriot Maronite Arabic, a severely endangered language, is now only spoken by elderly Maronites living in the village of Kormakitis. I am sure the conference today will be fruitful, and will lead the way towards the protection of our heritage.

Thank you.

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