SNP MEP Ian Hudghton has welcomed the announcement that there is to be a new European Commissioner responsible for multilingualism. The SNP President said that the post could lead to new opportunities for Gaelic and Scots speakers and help the development of Scotland's indigenous languages.

Two new posts are being created as a result of Romania and Bulgaria joining the European Union on 1 January 2007. The European Commission is made up of one Commissioner from each EU member state and Romania and Bulgaria have designated their individual candidates for the two new posts. One of these covers multilingualism and Romania has nominated its Chief EU negotiator, Leonard Orban, for the job.

Speaking from Brussels, Mr Hudghton said:

"I find it very encouraging in the current political climate that a new European Commission portfolio is being created for multilingualism. What now remains to be seen is whether the new office will support genuine linguistic and cultural diversity or just focus on Europe's larger state languages.

"In the coming weeks the European Parliament will hold confirmation hearings for the new Commissioners and I hope we'll be able to get a good idea of where Romania's nominee stands on the key issues. Like many other MEPs I will be looking for assurances that he is fully aware of Europe's rich linguistic tapestry and the cultural and economic significance of multilingualism.

"Potentially, having one European Commissioner responsible for multilingualism could prove very beneficial for Gaelic and Scots speaking communities. We would, for example, be hoping for more European support for programmes to develop and promote the languages. It's very early days, but if his appointment is approved then I would certainly like to see the new Commissioner engaging with Scotland's Gaelic and Scots speaking communities as early as possible in his term of office."

Notes:

Romania and Bulgaria are set to join the European Union on 1 January 2007 and both designate one European Commissioner each.

Two new portfolios have been created, namely multilingualism and consumer protection.

Romania has nominated Leonard Orban, its Europe Minister and Chief EU negotiator, and he is set to be given the multilingualism portfolio.

Confirmation hearings for the nominees are due to be held by the relevant European Parliament Committees in the week commencing 27 November 2006, followed by a vote of the full Parliament.

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