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A "Europe of the regions" was the idea of the European Commission under its former president Jacques Delors: the aim was to promote the regions in the EU member states and support them in their regional autonomy. As part of this process of making the regions real actors in European politics, changes were made in the structural funding arrangements of the European Union. This has created new opportunities for regions to receive funding and participate in the EU policy process.

Within many EU states, the regions have been given more competences since the 1970s. The process of European integration, combined with decentralisation in many Member States, has given the regions tools for a more active role in the European Union. In order to increase their influence in Brussels, many regions have established networks.

In this context, the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN) has launched the "Forum of European Minority Regions" - as a place for cooperation and networking. The goals: to increase the political weight of the individual regions and to exert a stronger influence on EU policy through a united appearance. In addition, the forum offers a space for exchange and analysis of the status quo with regard to minority rights and learning from best-practice examples.

Regional and minority languages are spoken by about 40 million people in Europe. It is precisely those regions where linguistic or ethnic autochthonous minorities live that strengthen European ties in a special way. Europe's minority regions form bridges between the Member States and play a decisive role in European integration.

Minorities contribute to the economic and social development of these regions. It is therefore no coincidence that some of these regions are among the wealthiest in Europe - South Tyrol, with the highest GDP per capita in Italy, or the Basque Country and Navarre, the richest regions in Spain, are good examples.

"Minority languages and the labour market - opportunities and challenges?"
Time: 30 November- 3 December 2023
Place: Opole and Katowice in Poland

"Minority languages and the labour market - opportunities and challenges?" is the question the upcoming Forum of Minority Regions is framed by. The 7th Forum of European Minority Regions, focusing on the advantages of a bilingual labour market, will take place on 1-2 December 2023 in Opole/Oppeln and Katowice/Kattowitz, Poland.

It is easier to find a job, change jobs and to be promoted in your job if you speak the minority language. The local language and culture is an added value that can make a region more attractive to foreign investment. Bi- or trilingual regions tend to be more prosperous than monolingual ones. Trilingual South Tyrol and the Aosta Valley are the richest regions in Italy and the bilingual Basque country and Navarre have the highest GDP per capita in Spain. But while it is an advantage to know the minority language at the personal and company level, organisations promoting the minority language and culture might see it as a drawback since those knowing the language are lured to the private sector by higher salaries.

The first panel in Opole on Friday the 1st of December deals with the advantage of minority languages for people and companies. It is a question of supply and demand, and since most people claim they speak English, its added value is smaller than that of other languages such as German, Hungarian, Catalan or Swedish. It is no longer considered a merit to know English, it is more or less a prerequisite, something taken for granted.

The second panel discussion in the afternoon deals with the loss of qualified staff that minority organisations face when competing for the same workforce with the private sector that can pay higher salaries. How can these organisations maintain their bilingual staff despite lower salaries? What incentives other than enumeration can be used by NGOs, which cannot be the high salaries of private enterprises?

The last panel in Opole the first day will be on discrimination in the labour market due to a minority background. For instance the Sinti and Roma, still face discrimination in many countries due to widespread prejudice.

The final panel on the morning of December 2 in Katowice is a summary of the first days panels and tries to come up with arguments on how the minority language can attract investment.


Data Protection Agreement


Arrival of the participants during the evening and afternoon.

Possibility for those that have arrived to visit the Documentation Centre of the German Minority in Poland.

Accommodation at Hotel Mercure Opole, Krakowska 57/59, 45-018 Opole, Poland
Venue: The Parliament of the Opole Voivodeship, Sejmik Województwa Opolskiego
ul. Piastowska 14 - Ostrówek, 45-082 Opole
alternatively conference room at Hotel Mercure
9:30 – 10:30

Introduction and welcome
FUEN vicepresident Bernard Gaida
president of VdG Rafał Bartek
the Marshal of Opole, Andrzej Buła other Polish politicians.

10:30 - 10:50

Keynote lecture by Antonio di Paolo, Professor at the University of Barcelona kicks off by presenting research findings on the added value of minority languages for the labour market.

10:50 - 11:20

Keynote address by Bengt-Arne Wickström, Professor in economics at the Andrassy university in Budapest.

11:20 - 13:00

Advantages of speaking the minority language in the private sector.

Session moderated by Dr Davide Zaffi, representative of Südtiroler Volksgruppeninstitut Bozen, Italy
Àngels Jerico Dindinger, Head of language policy and Sergi Montalvà Furió, Head of a ccreditation and training in Valencia, Spain
- Maria de Lluc Muñoz, International Secretary, Internacional Plataforma per la Llengua. Balearic Islands, Spain
- David Nagy, lawyer and politician Hungarian in Slovakia
- Bogna Koreng, Head of the MDR Studios Bautzen/Budyšin.

13.00 - 14:30 Lunch
14:30 - 16:00

Advantages of speaking the minority language in the public sector.

Session moderated by Eoghan Ó Cruadhlaoich, Secretary General of the Committee of the Gaeltacht and the Irish speaking communities, in the Oireachtas, the Houses of Parliament, Ireland
- Paul Bilbao Sarria, General Director of Armentia Ikastola (Basque immersion education centre), the Basque Country, Spain
- Onno Falkena, Journalist at Omrop Fryslân Radio & TV and board member of the Dutch minority languages umbrella organisation EBLT, Friesland, the Netherlands
- Vicent Climent, Professor at Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain
- Jaan Siitonen, CEO of the language ambassadors, Finland

16:00 - 16:30 Coffee Break
16:30 - 18:00

Challenges for the minority organisations

Session moderated by Dr Nils Erik Forsgård, visiting professor at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
- Ultan Ó Fátharta, Development Executive, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Ireland
- Sabrina Rasom, Director of the Ladin Cultyural Institute, Trentino, Italy
- Eugenia Natsolidou, founder the Macedonian Educational and Cultural Movement, Greece
- Bernard Gaida, FUEN vice president

19:00 Dinner at the hotel and presentation of the minorities in Poland

Venue: Parliament of the Silesian Voivodeship, Sejmik Województwa Śląskiego, ul. Ligonia 46, 40-037 Katowice tbc
Session moderated by FUEN vice president Gösta Toft.

8:15 - 10:15 Bus transport from Opole to Katowice
10:30 -11:00 Press conference
11:00 -11:30 Welcome speech by Maria Materla, Member of the Sejmik of the Silesian Voivodeship, Chairwoman of the Committee for Foreign Cooperation and European Integration of the Sejmik of the Silesian Voivodeship.
11:30 -12:00 Keynote speech by Romuald Jonczy, Professor of Economics at the University of Economics in Wroclaw
12:00 - 12:30 Keynote speech on bilingual education of the Polish minority in the Zaolzie region, Czechia, towards the challenges of the cross border labour market by Professor Joanna Kurowska Pysz, WSB University, Dąbrowa Górnicza
12:30 - 14:00

Examples of a multilingual cross-border labour market

Session moderated by Joanna Hassa managing director of Verband der deutschen s o zial kulturellen Gesellschaften in Polen, Poland
- Jean Faivre, representative of Unser Land, France
Maurizio Tremul, President of Unione Italiana, Slovenia
- Grégory Dalbert, Policy Advisor of the Government of the German-speaking Community, Ostbelgien, Belgium
- Andrea Vukelić, Serb national council, Croatia

14:00 - 15:00 Lunch
15:00 - 15:30

Conclusions by Gösta Toft, Vice President, FUEN
Thematic visits in Katowice

17:00 - 19:00 Bus transport from Katowice to Opole
20:00 Networking event at Hotel Mercure Opole
10:00 Evaluation of the event
From 12.00 Departure of the participants

Download the program in PDF