France to recognize minority languages in Constitution

In an unexpected U-turn, the French Assembly approves an amendment to article 1 of the French Constitution, which will define ‘regional’ languages as French heritage · The unexpected decision comes a fortnight after the Government’s cold response to the debate on minority languages.

France is to include a reference to minority languages in its Constitution: “regional languages are part of [French] heritage”. The addition of this phrase to Article 1 of the Constitution marks a historic step for a state that has been so reluctant to recognize linguistic diversity in the past, although it is still unclear what the effects of the modification will be.

The amendment was voted in during a parliamentary session in which changes to the Constitution were debated. Minority languages, an issue previously debated on 7 May without much success, were discussed on Thursday afternoon. The amendment to Article 1 was proposed by Jean-Luc Warsmann of UMP and, to the surprise of almost everybody, it was backed almost unanimously.

Marc Le Fur, Vice-President of the Assembly and Breton deputy, expressed his “emotion and satisfaction” after the vote, describing the amendment as “historic”. Other deputies who are pro-minority languages, such as Patricia Adam and Jean-Jacques Urvoas, said they were happy with the approved text but warned that the process of revising the Constitution “had just begun”. On the other hand, UMP deputy Claude Goasguen said that the vote “has nothing to do” with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages or its ratification.

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