Next time you attempt to ward off bad luck on Friday the 13th, consider going to Greece for the day. While in other countries people shy away from crossing black cats and ducking under ladders, in the home of the Acropolis they will happily open umbrellas indoors as there Friday the 13th is not considered to be bad luck. However, if you revel in pulling pranks, prepare to be met by blank stares in Spain on 1 April because the Spanish wait until 28 December to play jokes on each other. Similarly Easter might start on 8 April for people living in Ireland and the UK but in Orthodox Christian countries such as Greece, Romania, Cyprus and Bulgaria it does not kick off until 15 April.
The European Parliament takes all of Europe's cultural and linguistic differences into account. Other regions in the world might share an identity despite their differences, but Europe is Europe because of its differences. Its diversity is what makes it strong, so it is important to pay tribute to those differences. The Parliament operates in all of the EU's 23 official languages and meetings can't start until the interpreters have arrived. Using one working language might seem like a good idea, but that would mean only those good at languages would be eligible to take part in European elections. And, which language should it be? As the language with the largest number of native speakers in Europe, some would suggest it should be German rather than English.
MEPs play an important role in upholding diversity. They represent all member states and are the EU's most direct link to citizens. They consider how legislative proposals designed at the European level would work out at regional and national level. If laws are likely to have unintended consequences due to cultural differences, MEPs are in a good position to suggest remedies.
Europe's diversity is also embraced by the Parliament's website. It goes beyond having the site in 22 languages. Rather than having translations of each article, stories are written and interpreted to suit the readers of each language. There are also Twitter accounts in 22 languages to keep you up to date with all the latest developments. And you can follow most Parliamentary meetings in 22 languages on the website thanks to the Parliament's interpreters.
European legislation can play an important role in protecting regional and national traditions. For example, the names of regional foods such as Stilton cheese, Cornish clotted cream, and Shetland lamb are protected by European legislation. Producers can only label their goods with these names if their products genuinely originate from these regions. So rather than a threat to diversity, the EU could be seen as its greatest supporter.
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