Bitter France wants to CANCEL English language in French takeover of EU
Whittingdale: English language won't lose relevance after Brexit
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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 the six-month 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.
A senior French diplomat told the Politico website: “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.”
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.
France isn’t the first EU nation to insist that Council meetings are conducted in a native language.
But the practice has become far less prominent in recent years, with smaller countries often using English to ensure they are widely understood by their colleagues.
Nuno Brito, the Portuguese ambassador whose country currently holds the EU presidency, speaks mostly in English during meetings.
French foreign policy dictates the country’s representatives traditionally speak their native language during meetings.
During their presidency, French officials will be expected to expand their use of French to all meetings, including “all the presidency notes, the Coreper working groups and whatever allows us to organise all the work in the Council”.
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The French diplomat added: “We want the rules to be respected.
“Thus, we will always ask the Commission to send us in French the letters it wishes to address to the French authorities, and if they fail to do so, we will wait for the French version before sending it.”
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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France often claims that the use of English across the EU should be diminished after Brexit, with Ireland and Malta the only nations to use English as their official language.
In an op-ed published in April, French ministers said the country’s presidency was an “opportunity to hold high this vital fight for multilingualism”.
Hardline Europe minister Clement Beaune and tourism chief Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne conceded that the French language “had diminished to the benefit of English, and more often to Globish, that ersatz of the English language which narrows the scope of one’s thoughts, and restricts one’s ability to express him or herself more than it makes it easier”.
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