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Brussels, Septembrer 18th 2008

The Commission aims to tap the full potential of languages

Today the European Commission adopted a Communication entitled "Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment", addressing languages in the wider context of social cohesion and prosperity. By integrating multilingualism into a series of European Union policies and actions, this Communication aims to reflect the reality of a European Union with more than 490 million citizens, different language skills and different needs.

Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban said: "The harmonious co-existence of many languages in Europe is a powerful symbol of the European Union's aspiration to be united in diversity. With this Communication, we are prompting the EU Member States, local authorities and social partners to join forces and take action. Our inclusive approach takes into consideration the value and opportunities of the linguistic diversity in Europe and the more individual needs of learning languages to communicate efficiently."

In the EU, recent enlargements have added to the linguistic diversity: it now boasts 23 official languages and over 60 more spoken in specific regions or by specific groups. Globalisation and immigration flows further add to the wide palette of languages in daily use by Europeans. Linguistic diversity is incontestably one of the most characteristic features of the EU, affecting the social, cultural and professional lives of its citizens as well as the economic and political activities of its Member States. This Communication sets out to respond to the challenges posed by this reality, and proposes an approach which advocates including multilingualism across a whole series of EU policy areas.

The Communication invites EU Member States and the other EU Institutions to join forces to encourage and assist citizens in acquiring language skills. It explores issues such as:

  • The role languages play in developing mutual understanding in a multicultural society.
  • How language skills improve employability and ensure a competitive edge for European businesses.
  • What to do to encourage European citizens to speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue.
  • How the media and new technologies can serve as a bridge between speakers of different languages.

Moreover, this policy document proposes to make the most of existing European programmes and initiatives in the fields of Education, Media, Research, Social Inclusion and Competitiveness and foresees a review in 2012 of the progress made.

The Communication can be found online at

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