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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.

Minorities mean business - How a different language and culture can attract investors and tourists

Building on the positive experiences of previous years and to provide new impetus, this year's forum is scheduled to take place from the 10th of November 2022 to the 12th of November 2022, with a two-day conference in Gaillimh/Galway, Ireland. The title of this year’s forum is “Minorities mean Business” and is about the added value of minorities in conquering new markets and selling products, with a particular focus on tourism and investment.

Ireland is an officially bilingual country that is often seen as a model for language policies. Irish is the first state language, but both Irish and English are enshrined in the Irish Constitution as national languages. Galway itself is an ideal location for our Forum for a number of reasons, including the Galway Gaeltacht being the most highly populated Gaeltacht region in the country, and Galway’s unique status as a bilingual City.

The first day of the forum is reserved for the arrival of the participants. In the evening, Irish language and cultural organisations and politicians will have the opportunity to present themselves, starting with a general introduction to the situation of Irish language and culture and the work of Údarás na Gaeltachta.

The main theme of the second day is tourism and minority languages. We present research on the impact of tourism on smaller languages and cultures. The local language and culture is an added value that can make a region more attractive to tourists. In many regions such as South Tyrol, Aosta Valley, Valencia, Lapland and Wales, the minority language and culture bring an ‘exotic flair’ to the region that is appealing for tourists. In many countries, thanks to a different regional language and culture, tourists feel like they are abroad even though they are on vacation in their own country.

On the other hand, in some regions like Friesland, tourists are driving up prices so that the locals can barely make a living and, in the worst case, have to move away. The aim of the debate is thus not only to discuss the economic added value of minority languages and cultures on tourism, but also the downside of extensive tourism, such as higher real estate prices and a changes in the linguistic landscape of a region.

The second panel discussion deals with the use of minority languages and productive activities. How can you promote the use of the smaller language in the private sector? How can you persuade companies to offer services in the minority language and how can you encourage customers to request services in the smaller language, their mother tongue?

Best practices from Transylvania, Flensburg, Finland and Galway show how you can use different campaigns to make customers aware of the possibility of using their native language when shopping.

The last session is about promoting regional identity and languages among young people in Ireland, the UK and Brittany. How can you make young people proud of their language and culture with various projects so that the number of speakers no longer decreases but increases?

How can you improve the image of the language and make using the ‘minority’ language cool or sexy?

On the third and last day we will organize a study visit to Árainn/ the Aran Islands. The Aran Islands are one of the stronger Gaeltacht areas in Ireland and they are a perfect example of how a smaller language and culture cannot only be preserved but also promoted.

If the visit to the islands will not be possible due to poor weather conditions, an alternative study tour by bus to nearby Irish-speaking villages will be arranged. Another goal of the study trip is to create opportunities for exchange of best practices between participants. Such contacts could be beneficial for networking and facilitate networks that could be useful when looking for partners for EU projects. It is hoped that the Forum’s participants will be able to learn about and witness first-hand, among other things, the ground-breaking work being undertaken on a local level in the Gaeltacht through the Language Planning Process.


15:00 – 19:00 Arrival of participants from Dublin (3 hours) and Shannon airports (2 hours)
The Connemara coast hotel, Furbo, Galway, Ireland
19:30 – 21:00 Welcoming the participants of the Forum of European Minority Regions
Irish Folk music in the bar of Connemara coast hotel
9:30 – 10:30 Opening session
Loránt Vincze, FUEN President, MEP
Rónán Mac Con Iomaire, Director of Regional and Community Development and Language Planning), Údarás na Gaeltachta, Ireland
Éamon Ó Cuív, TD, Member of the Dáil Éireann (the Irish Parliament), Ireland
Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Chairperson of the Dáil Committee on the Irish Language, Ireland (On-line over zoom or teams)
Tríona Na Mathuna, Príomhoifigeach Cúnta, Assistant Chief Officer at the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Vice-Chair of the NPLD, Ireland
10:30 - 12:30 Business and tourism in minority regions
Key-note speech: Ré Ó Laighléis Writer, Ireland
Key-note speech: Greg Richards, Professor of Placemaking and Events at Breda University, the Netherlands (On-line over zoom or teams)
Key-note speech: Finbarr Bradley professor emeritus of finance at Dublin City University, Ireland

Comments by:
Christoph Schmidt, Director of Nordfriisk Instituut, Germany
Håkan Casares Berg, Observatorio da Cultura Galega, Consello da Cultura Galega, Spain
Òscar-Adrià Ibáñez, Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, Head of linguistic rights and entreprises, Plataforma per la llengua, Spain
Romedi Arquint, former president of FUEN and Lia Rumantscha, Switzerland
Eugenia Natsoulidou, founded the Macedonian Educational and Cultural Movement, Greece
Meirion Prys Jones, Consultant, former Chief Executive of the Welsh language board and NPLD, the United Kingdom
12:30 - 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15.30 Minority language promotion projects in action
Key-note speech by Michele Gazzola, Lecturer in Public Policy and Administration at Ulster University, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Siubhán Nic Grianna, Manager of Language Planning, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Ireland
Bríd Ní Chongholie, Gaillimh le Gaeilge, Ireland
István Horváth, Director of the Romanian Institute of minority studies, Romania
Bahne Bahnsen, FUEN vice president, Germany
Marc Jiménez i Agulló, Director general for language policy and multilingualism in the Valéncia region, Spain
Anna Jungner-Nordgren, International officer, The Swedish Assembly in Finland.
Andrea Vukelić, consultant in the Serb national council, Croatia
15:30 – 16:00 Coffee break
16:00 – 17:30 Target the youth - Regional identity and languages for young people
Moderator: Craig Willis, Researcher at the ECMI, Germany.
Seán Ó Coinn, CEO of Foras na Gaeilge, Ireland
Case Study: Glúin Z – Empowering Gaeltacht Youth, by Hannah Ní Dhoimhín, language planning executive, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Ireland
Jean-Pierre Levesque, Vice President of Institut Culturel de Bretagne, France
Marie-Noëlle Rinquin, international relations, Institut Culturel de Bretagne, France
Facundo Reyna-Muniain, Instituto da Lingua Galega, Spain
18:00 – 20:00 Dinner
10:00 - 18:00 Study visit to the Árainn Islands Linguistic and Cultural Tourism to the Árainn Islands
Departure of participants

Download the program in PDF