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You Say Euro, I Say Eiro

Jane Conway (ncy)
January 28, 2006

The European Central Bank is trying to curb varying spellings of the word euro. But Latvia, which has fought hard to keep its own language, says no amount of EU rhetoric will change it back from eiro.

All is not well in the house that euro builtImage: BilderBox

Latvia's government has decided to change the euro to fit their language, in which Europe is Eiropa and euro eiro. But the European Central Bank and other EU bodies have told the country it has gone too far. Latvia should use the standard written form when it adopts the currency in 2008, the EU says.

Latvia, however, has remained steadfast, saying it will take the issue to the European Court of Justice if necessary. It's a matter of protecting both national heritage and EU ethics, according to Latvian Education Minister Ina Druviete.

"It's not an issue of monetary policy. It's an issue of Latvian language policy, and we have to protect our languages," said Druviete. "The motto of the European Union is unity in diversity, and languages are the most specific representation of this diversity. I regret that officials from European institutions were so ignorant because it's not a detail. Language is a representation of national identity, and any interference in such a subtle sphere would have very serious consequences."

Battle for Latvian

At least the symbol seems to work for everyoneImage: AP

Language protection is an extremely sensitive issue in Latvia. During Soviet occupation, Moscow forced Russian on the nations that made up the USSR. The result was the near death of the Latvian language, not to mention the massive displacement of tens of thousands of Latvian people to make space for Russians to move in and impose a Russian-language school system.

After Latvia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a countrywide drive to re-establish the Latvian language. Today it's spoken by two-thirds of the population.

Latvian belongs to the Baltic group of Indo-European languages. "It's a language with ancient spelling traditions, and we have no such diphthong as 'eu' in our language," Druviete explained.

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