Expert: It will take 20 years for EU's English language to change
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And Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne suggested France would use its impending presidency of the EU to turn the screw – with Clement Beaune, the country’s Minister of Europe, urged to do likewise. The use of English as a kind of lingua franca within the bloc, and particularly within the European Parliament, is increasingly controversial especially since Brexit.
Critics believe there is no need for English to be used by default, arguing instead MEP should speak in their native language with the Parliament’s team of linguists translating accordingly depending on the nationalities of those listening.
In a speech yesterday, En Marche member Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said: “France assumes the presidency of the EU and with Clement Beaune we want this subject to be a top priority.
“The French language must have a better place in the European institutions, but not just French, other languages as well.”
Referencing the rudimentary grasp of English he claimed many MEPs had, Mr Lemoyne added: “We cannot be glad to use only 500 words of English, of a globish, of an incomprehensible Esperanto.”
Mr Lemoyne is not the first MEP to speak out against the status of English within the EU.
Last year, Jordan Bardella, an MEP with France’s right-wing National Rally party, argued English should lose its status “since Ireland declared Irish as its official language and Malta chose Maltese”.
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In a written question, he asked: “Where does the Commission stand on the question of keeping English as an official language of the European Union?
“Would the Commission be in favour of changing the rules governing the languages of the EU pursuant to Article 342 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union? Would it be prepared, for instance, to propose that the Council adopt a regulation on this subject as a result?”
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said it was a matter European Council rather than the European Commission.
He added: “The language regime is set by Regulation No. 1/1958 establishing the language regime of the European Economic Community (1) which provides, in Article 1 (2), that English, among other languages, is one of the official and working languages of the institutions of the Union.
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“Furthermore, the Commission would like to note that English is one of the official languages of two Member States, namely Ireland and the Republic of Malta.”
Speaking the year before, left-wing French MEP Manuel Bompard said: “According to the Commission Directorate-General for Translation’s own sources, in 2014 just five percent of the Commission’s documents were drafted in French and two percent in German, compared with 81 percent in English.
“When the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union is complete in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the English language will no longer be the official language of a single EU Member State.
“That being the case, will the Commission review its practice with regard to its working languages? Will it remove English from the list and make full and equal use of French and German?
On this occasion Mr Sefcovic replied: “Currently, the institutions of the Union have 24 official and working languages, English included, which is an official language in Ireland and Malta.
“There is no intention to change the current provisions regarding the use of languages within the Commission.”
Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has also questioned whether English should continue to be used within the bloc, suggesting in 2017 that it was “less important than it was”.
Speaking to Express.co.uk last year, Mr Littlewood, director-general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, told Express.co.uk: “English is increasingly the global language of commerce.
“That irritates the European Union somewhat and it certainly irritates the French.
“The European Union has got an interesting question facing it.
“Does it remain largely bilingual, despite the fact that the only native English speakers will be the very small Republic of Ireland?
“Or does it sort of put two fingers up to the English-speaking world and say ‘no we’re going to do everything in French?’
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)
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