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International Mother Language Day – Make Welsh official in Europe

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On International Mother Language Day (Friday 21 February), Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans has repeated calls for Welsh to be made an official language of the European Union to give a boost to the Welsh economy as well as giving our two official languages the same status.

Jill Evans pointed to the evidence from Ireland of the positive economic benefits of making Irish an official EU language in 2007.

Welsh is an official language in Wales, and has co-official status at EU level following a campaign by Jill Evans in 2008. This allows limited use of the language in the EU institutions and by people who contact them. But despite the fact that there are more Welsh speakers than speakers of other official EU languages, such as Irish or Maltese, Welsh is not treated equally.

Evidence shows that people have benefitted enormously since Irish became official. The number of students studying Irish to degree level in Galway University has increased by a third, and there is a similar pattern in other colleges. This has largely been due to the prospect of skilled translation jobs in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Fluency in two official EU languages is a pre-requisite for a job in the EU administration. At the moment, despite the fact that many students in Wales are bilingual, the Welsh language does not count. Making it official would make a huge difference to young people in Wales in terms of jobs and skills.

It would also be a boost to universities and colleges as well as Wales's successful and experienced translation industry. Dublin City University has been involved in producing the EU terminology database in Ireland which receives up to 900,000 team searches every month.

Jill Evans MEP believes that making Welsh an official EU language will raise Wales's profile in Europe and bring tangible economic benefits.

Jill Evans said:

"The Welsh language belongs to all of us in Wales, whether we speak it or not.

"Making Welsh an official EU language would bring real economic benefit as well as raising Wales's profile in Europe.

"We can see from the Irish example what opportunities this would provide for young people, for the translation industry, for schools and colleges and for the economy as a whole. We are a bilingual European nation and both our official languages should be recognised equally. We are proud of the fact that so many young people in Wales are fluent in two languages and they should benefit from that as young people do in other EU countries. Many more could then seek work in the EU.

"This is a decision for the UK government. I have launched a petition to request that it does as Ireland did in 2007 and request that Welsh is included as one of the UK languages in the EU.

"It does not necessarily mean that every meeting and every document is translated. Irish will not have complete translation until 2015 and the rules allow for some flexibility.

"Whenever I have called for this in the past, cost has been used as an argument against. The real cost is to our economy today. We pay for all the twenty four current languages, and I do not believe that we should be disadvantaged.

"Welsh is an official language in Wales, and if we are truly equals in Europe, it should be an official language of the European Union as well."

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