Respect for multilingualism and cultural diversity in the European Commission

Respect for multilingualism and cultural diversity in the European Commission

On 29 September 2020, Belgian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Olivier Chastel of the Renew Europe Group, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:        

“Language use in the European Union is a key issue which is linked to national identity. Every language expresses the culture and values of a people. Europe is rich in not only Anglo-Saxon culture but also in Latin culture.

By preferring to use primarily English in background files and in communications rather than other languages – particularly other working languages – the Commission is indirectly favouring the Anglo-Saxon way of thinking, endangering the principle of fair competition among journalists, and, above all, taking part in the impoverishment of the English language and the weakening of other languages, since these are being used less.

How will the Commission bridge this ever-widening gulf, which is to the detriment of Treaty obligations and respect for cultural diversity and contributes to the impoverishment of the European idea?”

On 19 January 2021, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “the Commission is convinced that multilingualism characterises the EU and its cultural diversity, and that the languages spoken in the different Member States are an essential element of Europe’s cultural heritage. The Commission promotes multilingualism as a guiding principle for fair use of the official languages of the EU.

In line with Regulation 1/58, in particular, all legally binding documents of general application are published in all 24 EU official and working languages. Equally, documents, be it legally binding individual acts or mere letters, which the Commission sends to a Member State or a physical or legal person are drafted in the language of that Member State or selected by the sender. The Commission also dedicates substantial resources to communicating directly with citizens in the full range of those languages. The Europa website itself maximises their use — subject to practical constraints.

As regards communication with journalists, the daily midday briefings are interpreted into English and French. When the Commission meets, interpretation is available in 23 languages. Due to the coronavirus crisis, currently the press conference on Wednesdays is interpreted in five languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish. Interpretation in sign language and in the language of the Member State of origin of the College member present is also provided.

The agenda of press events is communicated to journalists in English and French. The Spokesperson’s Service (SPP) strives to provide press materials at the same time in English, French and German and in the language of the Member State that the relevant news item concerns. In case of major news announcements of EU-wide relevance, press releases are usually made available in all EU official and working languages.”


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