Committee of the Regions President Peter Straub yesterday signed an agreement with the Spanish Ambassador to the EU, Carlos Sages Bastarreche, approving the use of Spanish regional languages in an EU institution for the first time. The ceremony was also attended by Pasqual Maragall i Mira, President of Catalonia, and Jose Maria Muñoa Ganuza, Commissioner for External Relations for the President of the Basque Government. Ana Isabel Leiva Diez, Spain's Secretary of State for Territorial Cooperation in the Ministry for Public Administration, Francisco Camps Ortiz, President of Valencia, Emilio Prez Touriño, President of Galicia, and Manuel Palacios, the Balearic Delegate were also present. Diez said the agreement approving the use of Spanish regional languages in the CoR was an important step in the history of Europe. This agreement means the government has fulfilled its commitment to bring regional languages to the heart of Europe, she added. Maragall said the decision would bring the EU closer to its citizens and increase a sense of belonging to the European Union. It underlined that Europe exists outside capital cities and outside Brussels, he added.
Mr Touriño thanked the CoR and the Spanish government for making the use of regional languages possible. Today is a special day and a historic day, he said. Today, Galicia feels more European than ever. Galician is part of the daily life of 1.5 million people, he told CoR members at the Plenary Session. It's part of our DNA ... it's a wonderful moment for me to be able to use my own language here. Mr Camps said the decision would enrich the European project as a whole and that, thanks to the CoR, Valencian could now be used as a political language. I am very proud that the language I learned from my parents and grandparents can now be heard in Brussels, he added.
Mr Muñoa was also clearly moved by the historic decision: This is a big day for the Committee of the Regions, which has always defended the diversity of Europe. Basque is the oldest language in Europe and languages are the maximum expression of that diversity. Palacios from the Balearics said the CoR had opened a door and that he hoped it would other languages would be given the opportunity to follow on the same track. The use use of regional minority languages for the first time in the history of Europe will contribute to making Europe a reality for the public, he told journalists.
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