Whittingdale: English language won't lose relevance after Brexit
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The French President is said to be considering a French language takeover next year when he assumes control of the EU’s six-month rotating presidency. He is considering plans for all meetings in Brussels to be held in French and is even pondering ignoring letters sent by the European Commission if they are drafted in English. But insiders have warned this could have a detrimental impact on the functioning of the EU.
A diplomat told the Politico website: “It is to be hoped that France will ultimately follow a pragmatic language approach.
“Many national delegates in EU working groups simply don’t understand or speak French.”
High-ranking ministerial meetings often feature interpretation services, allowing politicians to speak their own languages.
But some smaller technical and diplomatic discussions aren’t offered the same translation systems.
This means many of the meetings – considered the engine room of the EU – are conducted in the bloc’s most popular second language – English.
The insider added: “If a big part of the group doesn’t understand what is being proposed in French by the chair it puts the success of the French presidency in danger.
“No one wants that, not least our French friends themselves.”
Paris wants to fork out money on French lessons for eurocrats and diplomats, as well as hold every Brussels meeting in their native language during its six-month presidency spell.
Notes, minutes and preparatory meetings will all be conducted in French, and if a letter arrives from the European Commission in English, it will go unanswered.
French is one of the EU’s 24 official languages and one of the three working languages used by the Commission.
But it has seen its prominence diminished in favour of English, much to the disgust of the French government.
France wants to use its EU presidency in 2022 to revive French as the “lingua franca” of the EU, which officials consider a matter of cultural survival.
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A senior French diplomat yesterday said: “Even if we admit that English is a working language and it is commonly practiced, the basis to express oneself in French remains fully in place in the EU institutions.
“We must enrich it, and make it live again so that the French language truly regains ground, and above that, the taste and pride of multilingualism.
“There will be more visibility with the French presidency, so we will intensify our work.”
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France will take over the bloc’s rotating presidency in the first half of next year.
It gives Paris agenda-setting powers and ensures French officials are chairing key meeting on the bloc’s future.
Paris is splashing out on “exceptional budgetary and educational means” to bolster the number of French classes for EU civil servants.
A number of French-language debates will be organised to bring speakers from Paris to Brussels during the six-month presidency.
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