Language Minorities in Europe: Dying species or forerunner of a transnational civil society?
What is the role of linguistic minorities in nation building and re-building in Europe? How does European integration affect opportunity structures and basis of mobilisation? This paper looks upon the challenges of liguistic diversity in the cases of Germany, France and Spain.
Language minorities can be found as evidence of unfinished nation-building in relatively closed territorial settlements all over contemporary Europe. From a comparative perspective, different paths of accommodating linguistic diversity can be followed resulting in very dissimilar regimes of legal, political and cultural recognition. In recent years, standardisation of minority protection has taken place, with a new emphasis on the values of linguistic diversity, non-discrimination and tolerance. As will be argued, the expanding rights of language minorities must be understood in relation to a re-structuration of nation-states in Europe and a re-evaluation of difference in the course of European integration. The confrontation with internal diversity and the confrontation with a Europe of deep diversity are closely interlinked setting the conditions for the unfolding of a new politics of recognition towards language minorities. This changing minority-majority relationship and the related processes of Europeanization of opportunity structures for the political and cultural mobilisation of language minorities shall be analysed with reference to specific case studies from Germany, France and Spain.