7 June 2017: CoR/Freistaat Sachsen/Saarland event "Multilingualism in Border Regions":


Multilingualism in cross-border regions has always been an interesting topic for AEBR, and we have taken part in several projects dealing with this topic. A Task Force was very active in this regards when Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (IT) was full member, organizing various activities in that region, where German, Italian, Slovenian and Friuliano are spoken. The AEBR had the chance to explain its views about during a workshop organized by the CoR and the German States of Saarland and Saxony on 7th June 2017 in order to discuss and exchange experiences on how to foster multilingualism in border regions, with a view to create jobs, economic growth and mobility. The driver was the concept of border regions as functional regions which can only exploit their potential for growth and jobs if there is sufficient connectivity between both sides of the border. Language acquisition and multilingualism are key competences for a peaceful life and successful growth in these regions. This conference aimed at concluding how to overcome obstacles and barriers in all sectors of border regions and give best practice examples how to proceed. A CoR’s own initiative opinion has been taken into consideration.

Several panels dealt with:

  • The development of cross-border education and training systems, taking very much into account language skills from early educational stages (kindergarten) to higher education, including vocational training and life-long learning. It was proposed to identify more support for multilingualism projects within Erasmus.
  • Economy, employment and mobility of apprentices in order to foster economic growth and jobs. The growing demand of experts and well-skilled workers can only be met by more mobility of competent workers. Obstacles, solutions and chances for multilingual education were discussed by experts from different economic sectors.
  • Culture, CBC and every-day life in cross-border regions where different languages are present. Culture and knowledge of cultural backgrounds are key factors in understanding the neighbour. On the other hand, CBC in health, security, emergency services, etc., can contribute to overcome obstacles for full development of cross-border territories.

The AEBR Secretary General contributed in the last panel, explaining the effects of language diversity in CBC and the generation of trust as a pre-condition for successful CBC, the role of minority languages, some major gaps still present, the need to take multilingualism into account within national education programmes, and some best experiences in Europe: the Languages and Borders Network (LAB), the promotion of Portuguese at the Spanish side of the ES-PT border, the Sprachoffensive in Euregion Egrensis (CZ/DE), the Sprachstrategie (Sonderjylland-Schleswig), Falske venner & Co (DE-DK), Euregioschool (BE/DE/NL), etc.

He also made some recommendations for policy-makers:

  • Learning the neighbour’s language is a pre-requisite for sustainable CBC.
  • Do not under-estimate the role of language minorities in a region's identity and potential; and in European diversity.
  • Learning several languages from early childhood facilitates learning new languages afterwards.
  • Multilingual citizens have more chances to be open and tolerant.

Multilingualism in cross-border regions should be further promoted in different EU programmes and in national education schemes. The CB Languages and Minorities Task Force should be reactivated, connected with the collaboration with FUEN (the Federal Union of European Nationalities).

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