SNP MEP Ian Hudghton has joined colleagues from across the EU in calling for the European Commission to ensure that minority languages are given adequate protection ahead of EU enlargement next year.

The demand was made at a major conference on linguistic diversity held in the European Parliament in Brussels. The event was organised by EBLUL (European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages) and the European Free Alliance group, of which the Scottish National Party MEPs are leading members.

Speaking after the event, Mr Hudghton said:

"After the 10 new member states join us next year, around 46 million minority language speakers will live within the EU, including our own Gaelic and Scots speakers. This is a substantial number of people who choose to speak a language other than the official language of their nation state, a language in which they may conduct their everyday life or which may well be the main language of their communities."

"These languages are not only a precious feature of Europe's cultural heritage, they are a fundamental part of the everyday lives of tens of millions of people. This Conference aimed to put these languages into the spotlight and to put in motion steps which should secure their future survival."

"The SNP believes that this can only be guaranteed with the level of official recognition and structured support such as that envisaged by the kind of official agency proposed. The European Commission must not delay in setting up the new Linguistic Diversity Agency so that we are ready for the challenges and opportunities of the enlarged European Union."

The Conference, which was chaired by Plaid Cymru MEP Eurig Wyn, was addressed by a number of MEPĂ­s from the European Free Alliance group and by Slovak Deputy Prime Minister, Pal Csaky.

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