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Action to end #language #inequality in Europe

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Welsh MEP Jill Evans today presents her draft report on ‘Language equality in the digital age’ to the European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee.

The report identifies the issues facing minority and lesser-used languages in Europe. English is currently the most widely spoken language online, and many services are unavailable in all languages.

Ms Evans' report considers how new technologies can be used to increase the use of minority languages online, rather than a pose a risk to them.

Ahead of the Culture and Education Committee meeting in Brussels, Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans said:

"This report raises awareness of the issues minority languages face in Europe, which is so important for us in Wales. Welsh language education and literature is thriving, and our music scene is stronger than it has been for years. However, in the digital age, languages such as Welsh are struggling in the face of the dominance of English.

 "The problem is that people are spending so much time in an almost entirely English language digital world, so their use of smaller languages is decreasing. New technologies like Siri and Alexa are changing the way we live our lives, but are currently unavailable in minority languages.

 "However, we need to see technology not as a danger, but rather as an opportunity to achieve language equality in Europe.

 "There has already been progress. Working with the Welsh Language Commissioner, Microsoft has developed Welsh interfaces and Facebook has adapted its interface to be inclusive of minority languages, and there are excellent services such as Cysill and Cysair, which have hugely improved Welsh translation services online.

 "Policies should encourage the development of programmes that will help smaller languages achieve the same level of digital support as more widely spoken languages.

 "Europe’s diversity is remarkable. With 80 different languages, we should be using our multilingualism to our advantage, developing policies that will encourage us all to use our own languages, to ensure true linguistic equality in the digital age".

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Parliament president calls for a European Search and Rescue Mission

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European Parliament President David Sassoli (pictured) has opened a high-level interparliamentary conference on managing migration and asylum in Europe. The conference focused particularly on the external aspects of migration. The president said: “We have chosen to discuss today the external dimension of migration and asylum policies because we know that only by tackling the instability, crises, poverty, human rights violations that occur beyond our borders, will we be able to address the root causes that push millions of people to leave. We need to manage this global phenomenon in a human way, to welcome the people that knock on our doors every day with dignity and respect.
 
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on migration patterns locally and worldwide and has had a multiplier effect on the forced movement of people around the world, especially where access to treatment and healthcare is not guaranteed. The pandemic has disrupted migration pathways, blocked immigration, destroyed jobs and income, reduced remittances, and pushed millions of migrants and vulnerable populations into poverty.
 
“Migration and asylum are already an integral part of the external action of the European Union. But they must become part of a stronger and more cohesive foreign policy  in the future.
 
“I believe it is our duty first of all to save lives. It is no longer acceptable to leave this responsibility only to NGOs, which perform a substitute function in the Mediterranean. We must go back to thinking about joint action by the European Union in the Mediterranean that saves lives and tackles traffickers. We need a European search and rescue mechanism at sea, which uses the expertise of all actors involved, from Member States to civil society to European agencies.
 
“Second, we must ensure that people in need of protection can arrive in the European Union safely and without risking their lives. We need humanitarian channels to be defined together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We must work together on a European resettlement system based on common responsibility. We are talking about people who can also make an important contribution to the recovery of our societies affected by the pandemic and demographic decline, thanks to their work and their skills.
 
“We also need to put in place a European migration reception policy. Together we shoulddefine the criteria for a single entry and residence permit, assessing the needs of our labor markets at a national level. During the pandemic, entire economic sectors came to a halt due to the absence of immigrant workers. We need regulated immigration for the recovery of our societies and for the maintenance of our social protection systems.”

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Parliament votes to take Commission to court over inaction on breaches of the rule of law

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Today (10 June), the European Parliament has voted (506 for, 150 against, 28 abstentions) on a resolution paving the way to bring the European Commission to the European Court of Justice for inaction over the rule of law, as called for by the Greens/EFA Group. The EU's Rule of Law Mechanism, which has been in place since 1 January this year, has yet to be triggered by the Commission over breaches of the rule of law that affect the EU's budget. The Parliament voted in March and gave the Commission a deadline of 1 June for the adoption of guidelines and the application of the mechanism. The Commission has missed this deadline and has yet to publish its 'guidelines' on how the mechanism should be triggered.

The resolution highlights that this a 'failure to act' by the EU Commission under Article 265 of the TFEU and is the first step in taking the Commission to court. Terry Reintke MEP (pictured), Greens/EFA negotiator and LIBE rapporteur on the Rule of Law Mechanism, said: "The EU needs a strong basis we can all stand on, which is spelled out in the treaties: democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights. But this is under attack and being dismantled as we speak. Instead of defending European values, the Commission is watching, writing reports and sitting on its hands. The rule of law needs action now. Unfortunately, it's clear from yesterday's debate in Parliament that the Commission doesn't seem to feel the same sense of urgency to act.

"People in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere need to know that the Commission is on their side and will fight for their rights as EU citizens. The Commission should not need pressure to act on defending the treaties, but if they keep refusing to act, pressure is what they will get. We are taking action against the Commission to make them do their job and defend the rights of European citizens. We, as the Parliament, will not allow the Commission to sit idly by as far-right populist governments rip apart the rule of law in Europe."

Daniel Freund MEP, Greens/EFA negotiator on the Rule of Law Mechanism, said: "The Rule of law Mechanism isn't just some shiny souvenir from a hard-wrung struggle in the Council last winter; it's a real tool with real world applications and real sanctions. First the Commission claimed they didn't have the tools to fight the rule of law, but now that we have the tool, it's time to use it. There are clear examples of breaches of the rule of law that are taking place as we speak, without any need for 'guidelines' to start proceedings. Attacks against NGOs, media freedom and 'foundations' set up to avoid scrutiny over the use of EU funds, all are cause for launching action in Hungary alone. These are attacks by Viktor Orbán on our rights, our values and our money as EU citizens.

"Inaction on the rule of law would be tantamount to accepting the fight for democracy is already lost in several member states. In six months, Hungarian citizens will go to the polls and they need to be able to vote under real democratic standards. We must make sure that Orbán isn't using EU money to steal the election, to control media coverage and ensure that the opposition cannot contest the election fairly. We don't have time to wait."

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EU Digital COVID Certificate: It’s now up to EU countries

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MEPs see the EU Digital COVID Certificate as a tool to restore freedom and urge EU countries to implement it by 1 July, Society.

The certificate aims to enable easier and  safer travel by proving someone has been vaccinated, had a negative COVID test or recovered from the disease. The infrastructure for it is in place and 23 countries are technically ready, with nine already issuing and verifying at least one type of certificate.

Restoring freedom of movement

In a plenary debate on 8 June, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, Spain), the lead MEP regarding the certificate, said that freedom of movement is highly prized by EU citizens and that the negotiations on the COVID Certificate "have been completed in record time”. “We want to send out the message to European citizens that we are doing everything we can to restore freedom of movement.”

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said: "The certificate, which will be free of charge, will be issued by all member states and will have to be accepted across Europe. It will contribute to a gradual lifting of restrictions."

Member states have to apply the rules

The COVID certificate is “the first step towards getting rid of restrictions and that is good news for many people in Europe - people who travel for work, families that live in border areas, and for tourism,” said MEP Birgit Sippel (S&D, Germany). She said it is now up to EU countries to harmonise the rules on travel.

“All citizens in the European Union rightfully expect to be able to use this system by the start of summer and member states must deliver,” said Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, the Netherlands). He said that this means not only the technical implementation of the certificate, but much more: “European citizens want to finally have some coordination and predictability on our internal borders.”

Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew, Netherlands) called on member states to ensure that the EU reopens. “Europeans desperately want to regain their freedom. I think it is worthwhile remembering that it isn’t the virus that has taken away their right to free movement in Europe. It is actually the patchwork of national rules that makes it impossible for them to move around."

Respecting people's’ rights

Cornelia Ernst (The Left, Germany) said that it was chiefly Parliament and the Commission that defended people's rights during negotiations with member states: “We need to defend everyone’s freedoms - not just holidaymakers',” she said.

Tineke Strik (Greens/EFA, Netherlands) underlined the importance of non-discrimination and data protection and said this certificate fully respects these requirements. The member states should apply and implement this new harmonised system and MEPs will monitor that non-discrimination is respected, she said.

Joachim Stanisław Brudziński (ECR, Poland) said that the certificate “is supposed to facilitate free movement and not be a condition of it”. The people who have not been vaccinated would still have the right to move within Europe, with restrictions such as tests, self-isolation, or quarantine. He stressed that “this regulation cannot be seen as something that makes vaccines obligatory”.

Christine Anderson (ID, Germany) expressed doubts about whether the certificate could restore freedom of movement and respect people’s rights. She raised concerns that it would force people to be vaccinated. This could lead to having to have “a certificate to prove you’ve got rights”. This shouldn’t be a back door to requiring vaccination, she said.

Find out how to travel safely with the EU Digital COVID Certificate.

EU Digital COVID Certificate 

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