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Minority Languages in Education on Cyprus and Malta

Introduction
 
Malta and Cyprus differ from the other eight new member states. Both small islands – republics today - have a history of colonisation. Both countries are quite small, actually: Malta has fewer than half a million inhabitants, and Cyprus has some 800,000. Both countries were colonies in the years of the British Empire and only became independent in the nineteen-sixties. Their minority language situation is also quite different from the other eight new EU member states, which will be pointed out in this article.
 
Malta
 
Malta has been inhabited since 5200 BC. Around 400 BC, the Maltese islands came under the control of Carthage. From 218 BC onwards, Malta belonged to the Roman Empire. In 870 AD, the islands were conquered by the Arabs. They greatly influenced the island's culture, something which is still noticeable today, especially in the Maltese language. The so-called Sicilian Normans made Malta Christian in 1090.
 
In 1530, the islands were given to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, a militant monastic order (known as the "Knights of Malta"). They were in power until 1798, when Napoleon conquered the islands. In 1800, the British took possession of the islands. In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became a part of the British Empire. Malta became independent on 21 September 1964.  Until 1974, it remained a member of the Commonwealth.  That was the year Malta officially became a republic. Since 1 May 2004, Malta has been a member of the EU.[1]
 
Malta signed (1995), ratified (1998) and brought into force (1998) the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. In this document, Malta declares that it has no national minorities in its territory. Malta signed the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages on 5 November 1992, but has not yet ratified it. The national language of Malta is Maltese: a language of Semitic origin with Romance elements, using a primarily Latin alphabet but also including a number of additional letters originating from the Arab language.
 
Although officially no minority languages are spoken on Malta, as many as 15,000 people on the island speak English as their mother tongue - on a total population of 406,342 (2004 estimate).[2]Most Maltese people, however, speak Maltese as well as English. Officially, English is the second state language of Malta and is still often used  by various authorities. According to a Council of Europe report, children who only speak English at home should be taught to use this language more correctly, in combination with learning Maltese.[3]  Maltese as well as English is  used with children as early as kindergarten levels, with English  especially being used in non-state kindergartens. In primary school, pupils are mainly instructed in Maltese in the early years, while English is increasingly used as the language of instruction in the later years of primary school. Children are exposed to English as well as Italian at an early age because of television (Malta is quite close to Italy: it lies some 90 kilometres south of Sicily).[4]  In secondary school, Maltese and English are still the most important languages. However, students can also choose one or two other foreign languages, which is mostly Italian - for geographical, historical and cultural reasons. Still, most people living on Malta have a good knowledge of French, Italian and German. The International School of English is part of the University of Malta , where the main instructive language is always English.
 
 
Cyprus
 
In 1995, Cyprus signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Convention was ratified in 1996 and brought into force in 1998. Cyprus signed (1992), ratified (2002) and implemented (2002) the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. Concerning education (article 8 of the Charter), Cyprus signed the (sub)paragraphs 1a (i), 1b (i) en 1c (i). EU membership applies only to the Greek part of Cyprus . Greek Cyprus submitted its Initial Periodical Report in accordance with the Charter in January 2005. This report states the following:[5]
 
“The Government of the Republicof Cyprus regrets that, due to the continuing illegal occupation and effective control of 37% of its territory by Turkish military forces, it is unable to ensure the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by the Charter in the whole of its territory. As a result, no reliable information and data are available regarding the enjoyment of the rights prescribed by the Charter by the Cypriot population living in the area that is not under Government control. Therefore all information and data relate to the Government – controlled areas.”
 
In the same report, a table is included with the languages of Cyprusand the number of people speaking these languages. According to this table, 87,000 people belong to the Turkish Cypriot community. According to a Council of Europe report, however, Cyprushas 706,900 inhabitants, of whom 565,900 speak Greek (81,4 %) and 131,800 speak Turkish (18,6 %).[6]  A report written under the authority of the European Parliament states that there are 200,587 Turks on the island (1997 census) of whom 89,000 are native Turkish Cypriots.[7] It is striking that around sixty per cent of the Turkish population on Cyprus originally came from Turkey , with forty per cent of the Turkish population born on Cyprus itself. Of course, this situation dates back to the nineteen-seventies (with the Turkish-Greek conflict on Cyprus lasting from  1974 to 1977).
 
Cyprus has a history of conflicts and colonisation. In 1570, the Ottoman Empire forces invaded Cyprus . They ruled the island until the early 20th century. Greek Cypriots tried to join the Greek rebellion of 1821, but they were defeated. At the end of the 19th century, Cyprus was given to Britain as a base. It was formally made a British crown colony in 1925. Since 1960, Cyprus has been independent. In 1975, the Turkish Cypriots announced their own state: the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus , recognised only by Turkey . In 2004, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan designed a proposal to unite the Turkish and Greek parts of Cyprus through the establishment of a federation of two states - one Greek and the other Turkish. The idea was to have a fairly loose central government control, based on the Swiss model, with a symbolic, alternating presidency. However, this plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriots. Most Turkish Cypriots were in favour of the plan. In April 2005, the pro-EU and pro-unification candidate Mehmet Ali Talat won the presidential elections in the Turkish part of Cyprus .The chances of unification of the Turkish and Greek parts of Cyprus have become significantly bigger because of these elections.
 
Education in the north of Cyprus is in Turkish. All teaching material comes from Turkey. Most students from the Turkish part of Cyprus study at a university in Turkey or they attend the Public Pedagogical Academy on the island.[8]
 
There are only 2,600 Armenians living on Cyprus. There are also approximately one thousand Armenians living on Cyprus who are not Cypriot.[9] For the Armenian language group, which falls under Greek government on the island, there are three public primary schools where pupils receive education in Armenian, Greek and English. These schools are the so-called “NAREG-schools”, managed by one headmaster.[10]  These schools are funded by the Cypriot government and supervised by the Ministry of Education and Culture, but at the same NAREG-schools have full autonomy. Extra-curricular activities in these schools include Armenian history and geography, religious instruction and traditional Armenian dance. Ninety per cent of the Armenian children on Cyprusattend NAREG-schools.[11]
 
The Melkonian Educational Institute, established in 1926, is the only secondary school for the Armenians of Cyprus. It offers instruction in Armenian, Greek and English. Two thirds of the Armenians at the proper age receive education in this school. However, the school is also open to non-Armenian students and staff. Until recently, the school was mainly subsidized by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in New York . Because of financial problems, this organisation has decided to close down the school by the end of June of this year (2005). Of course, the Cypriot Armenians are against this decision, but also the Cypriot government feels that it is important to have Armenian secondary education available on the island, considering the requirements Cyprus faces within the Framework of the Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. Therefore, the Cypriot government has decided to approve an additional grant for the Melkonian Institute and to allow it to continue its work. At the moment, the government is examining the possibility of future grants to Institute.
 
Cyprus also has a Maronite language community. According to the Initial Periodical Report of Cyprus, the Maronite language derives from Arabic: the migration of this language group started in the eighth century. The Maronites originate from Lebanonand follow Roman Catholic beliefs. No education in Maronite is offered on the island: according to the Initial Periodical Report, today's Maronites speak Greek. They receive their education in Greek schools.[12] According to the European Parliament report on lesser-used languages in states applying for EU-membership (2001), Maronite has fewer than 1000 speakers, and most of them are thought to be over the age of 50. By contrast, the Initial Periodical Report of Greek Cyprus states that there are at least 4,800 Maronites living on the island.
 
“The Latins” are also mentioned in the Initial Periodical Report of Cyprus. These people are descendants of migrants from Italy , France and Malta who left for the island in the sixteenth century. These “Latins” do not have their own language, but do have separate Roman Catholic schools which also accept children from other religious groups.
 
Conclusion
 
Malta does not have any true minority languages, although the Maltese language itself is quite small: a state language spoken by approximately 400,000 people (by comparison: Catalan,  with its six million speakers, is a minority language, and in The Netherlands some 350,000 people speak West Frisian). The children of Malta may call themselves privileged with their bilingual Maltese-English education system. Besides Maltese and English, most people living on Malta speak a number of other, foreign languages as well.
 
The Cypriot situation is different. It is hoped the unification of the Turkish and Greek parts of Cyprus will be realised in the next decade. In this way, the whole of Cyprus will belong to the EU. If one looks at the numbers, one could consider the Turkish Cypriot community to be a minority language community on Cyprus . However, this kind of terminology would most probably not be appreciated by the Cypriot Turks. Also, with a unified Cyprus , the Turkish community will probably not have a minority status. If Cyprus were to become a federal republic, based on the Swiss model, both Turkish and Greek rights will have to be guaranteed.
 
The only true language minorities will be the Armenians, the Maronites and the Latins. Only the Armenians have their own education system (NAREG schools, Melkonian Institute), but it remains to be seen how long this situation will last, since the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) of New York decided to stop financing the Melkonian Institute and since the Armenian language group is very small (2,600 people). However, for the near future, Armenian secondary education seems to be saved by the subsidy granted by the Greek Cypriot government. It still remains a question how realistic the option of Maronite or Latin education actually is.
 
Languages of [13]
Greek Cypriot community
646,900
79.1 %
Turkish Cypriot community
87,000
10.7 %
Armenians
2,600
0.4 %
Maronites
4,800
0.6 %
Latins
900
0.1 %
Foreign residents
83,500
10.2 %
Total population
818.200
100 %










 
Bibliography
 
Council of Europe. 1995. The situation of regional or minority languages in Europe. Contributions submitted by national delegations. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
 
Cyprus. 1999. First report submitted by Cypruspursuant to Article 25, Paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
 
Cyprus. 2005. Initial Periodical Report presented to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, in accordance with Article 15 of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
 
Malta. 2004. Second report submitted by Maltapursuant to article 25, paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
 
Mercator-Education. 2000. Language Fact Sheet Malta. Ljouwert/Leeuwarden: Mercator-Education.
 
Winther, P (ed.). 2001. Lesser-used languages in states applying for EU Membership. European Parliament. Directorate-General for Research. Working Paper. Abridged edition.


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[1]http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/History-of-Malta
[2]Second report submitted by Maltapursuant to article 25, paragraph 1 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, General information on Malta, 1. Country and People.
[3]The situation of regional or minority languages in Europe, Council of Europe 1995, s. 84.
[4]Mercator-Education. Language Fact Sheet Malta (2000).
[5]Initial Periodical Report submitted by Cyprus , in accordance with the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, p. 5, article 8.
[6]Council of Europe(1995). The situation of regional or minority languages in Europe, p. 15.
[7]European Parliament (2001). Lesser-used languages in states applying for EU-membership, p. 9.
[8]European Parliament (2001). Lesser-used languages in states applying for EU-membership, p. 9.
[9]European Parliament (2001). Lesser-used languages in states applying for EU-membership, p. 9.
[10]NAREG refers to a distinguished 10th century Armenian poet-priest Krokor of Nareg
[11]Initial Periodical Report submitted by Cyprus , in accordance with the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, p. 9/10, articles 22-25.
[12]Initial Periodical Report submitted by Cyprus , in accordance with the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, p. 7, Part II – Constitutional Background, article 14.2.
[13]Initial Periodical Report submitted by Cyprus , in accordance with the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, p. 15, Part IV – Statistics and other useful data: Population – Composition.
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