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Constitutional recognition for Breton and Gallo languages achieved in French senate U-turn

Breton and Gallo languages finally recognised in France's Constitution as French Senate unexpectedly lifts veto to contitutional reform.
Breton and Gallo languages finally recognised in France's Constitution as French Senate unexpectedly lifts veto to contitutional reform.

In an unexpected U-turn, the French Senate agreed to pass a reform to France's Constitution on 21st July after a series of amendments were introduced to the original proposed text.

On 18th June 2008 the French Senate had voted against a historical amendment to the French Constitution which would have acknowledged France's linguistic diversity.

The Upper House veto to recognise France's regional languages sparked anger and resignation amongst Breton and Gallo language supporters.

But in a second round of amendments to the French Constitution presented to the French Senate on 21st July, the Upper House decided this time to accept the proposal for constitutional reform.

The new French Constitution will finally acknowledge that “Regional languages are part of France's cultural heritage.”

In the previously rejected text, the mention to France's regional languages was proposed to be included in the Article 1 of the French Constitution. Under the amendment passed on 18th June, the acknowledgment will now be moved down to Article 75 at the section of "Territorial Administration".

The constitutional amendment was passed by a narrow majority of only one vote, with the support of the governing party UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire). The main opposition party, Parti Socialiste, voted against the reform.

Breton UMP politician Marc Le Fur, who played a key role in pushing the constitutional reform forward, said: "This is a great victory. I pay tribute first of all to those who for so many years have been campaigning for a formal recognition for the Breton and Gallo languages."

"We have overcome all obstacles in our way, despite many people thinking that we would end up giving up. In any case, this is not finished yet as there is still much more left to do in our struggle for the regional languages", told the Breton politician, who also expressed his disappointment over the negative vote canvassed by the Breton socialist senators.

Although the constitutional recognition will not create any legal rights for minority language speakers in France, Breton and Gallo language supporters welcomed the recognition which is widely considered to be a small but important step forward for a State with a long tradition of hostility against minority languages.

A CSA poll published by Breton newspaper Ouest France on June 18th showed that 68% of the French population agreed with a constitutional recognition of France's regional languages.

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