Brussels will now ring to the sound of Welsh talk
WELSH will be welcomed in the corridors of power in Brussels from today, following the signing of a deal between the UK and its European partners.
An arrangement will be signed today by Sir Kim Darroch, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, allowing people to write to the Commission in Welsh – and to expect to receive a response in the same language.
It follows a series of similar arrangements concluded with the Council of Ministers and Committee of Regions, allowing ministers to speak Welsh in official meetings.
It does, not, however, yet put Welsh among the “official” languages of the EU, which remains at 23.
All of the financial and administrative costs of translation are being met by the Assembly Government and the Welsh Language Board although costs are likely to be low, since few expect major use to be made of the new opportunities.
Sir Kim said: “This is about putting practical measures in place to make the EU more open and accessible to its citizens. We’re committed to ensuring similar arrangements across the institutions of the EU.”
The Assembly Government asked the Foreign Office to negotiate the agreement last year and has already set up the necessary administration.
The status that Welsh and will enjoy is based on the same arrangements that Spain’s regional languages – Basque, Catalan and Galician – have had with EU institutions since 2005.
Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans launched a campaign in 2005 for Welsh to be given the same status.
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said: “This is another sensible step towards making the EU a little bit more accessible to a group of its citizens.
“It is a practical way for the EU to demonstrate Europe’s cultural diversity and it enables citizens the choice of corresponding in Welsh where that is their preference.”
Welsh was first used officially for the first time in a meeting of European Union ministers by Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones last year.
His first words to the Council of Ministers were: “Diolch madam llywydd” (thank you madam chair).
Ms Evans had already addressed the European Parliament in Welsh, without translation in response to a speech by former prime minister Tony Blair.
Europe Minister Glenys Kinnock said: “As a Welsh speaker myself I’m clearly delighted to see further recognition for the language at the European level.
“This demonstrates a clear commitment by the EU to promote its unique and diverse cultural heritage.”