Labour-Plaid argue about £½m EU translation bill
A LABOUR MEP yesterday said the £500,000-plus cost of establishing Welsh as an official EU language could not be justified. Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans has made renewed calls for Welsh to become the 24th language to gain official status in the European Parliament, where Wales has four representatives. Labour MEP Eluned Morgan said the money would be better used encouraging grassroots projects to promote the language.
Ms Evans said: “Giving Welsh an official status at EU level has more than symbolic value. Welsh speakers will be able to communicate with EU institutions in their own language. This is vitally important when it affects so many aspects of our lives.” However, Ms Morgan said: “I would rather see the money it would cost to provide Welsh translation services in the parliament invested in promoting use of the language at the grassroots – in ensuring there are Welsh-language nurseries in our towns and villages or that people who want to learn the language are able to do so.” The divide between Labour and Plaid comes at a time when the UK Government is negotiating for the limited use of Welsh in EU institutions – with Cardiff Bay footing the bill.
It is understood proposals would allow Welsh-speakers to address some meetings in Welsh, with English interpretation, but without interpretation into Welsh. A UK Government spokesman insisted this was “not about adding Welsh to the list of official EU languages”. He said: “These proposals are still under discussion and no arrangements have yet been agreed. Any costs incurred will be paid for by the Welsh Assembly Government as part of its commitment to promote the Welsh language.”The 785-member European Parliament spends more than £500,000 a year providing translation facilities for Irish Gaelic, which became an EU official language last year – despite the fact there is only one native Gaelic- speaker in the chamber.
Aran Jones, chief executive of Welsh-language pressure group Cymuned, was disappointed that Labour was not championing official status. He said: “We should be starting from the standpoint that of course we want to see it as an official language. That should be taken for granted.“If there are complications and overwhelmingly powerful financial arguments (against that), with the rest of Europe we will look for the right answers.” The One Wales coalition deal between Labour and Plaid commits the Assembly Government to “drive forward our efforts to obtain agreement on the use of the Welsh language in specified areas of EU business. We will use this experience to explore with the Westminster government the making of an official application to the Council of Ministers for the Welsh language to receive official EU language and working language status.”Ms Evans has already addressed the European Parliament in Welsh – without any interpretation. She spoke Welsh in response to a speech by the then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in the European Parliament in 2005.