Language Rights and Community Law
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European Integration Online Papers 12 : (2008)
The territory of the European Union is made up of a rich and wide-ranging universe of languages, which is not only circumscribed to the "state languages". The existence of multilingualism is one of Europe’s defining characteristic and it should remain so in the constantly evolving model of Europe’s political structure. Linguistic rights have been dealt with under Community law through various viewpoints. The linguistic regime of the European Union is essentially of a legal nature. As a consequence of the legal regime of the languages there is a graduation between them. The building of political and economic Europe based on the "state language" concept affects the European linguistic diversity itself. Nevertheless, the express legal recognition to the European linguistic diversity takes place in a new context: the context of the opening of the European Union to fundamental rights. The respect for the linguistic diversity is shaped as an aim of the Union, identifying a sphere of action. A sphere of action that has to materialise itself with specific measures. We will see if there is enough legal basis to say that linguistic rights do form part of the general principles of law. If linguistic rights are considered as general principles under Community law, when do they have to apply?