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Outraged by English-only proposal, French envoy walks out of meeting on EU budget.
The most amazing and brave thing happened this week in the European Council. The Franch EU ambassador walked out of a diplomatic meeting on Wednesday after the Council decided to use only English-language translation in a new working group on the EU’s long-term budget.
Philippe Léglise-Costa, who is the French EU ambassador, stormed out of the Coreper meeting on the Multiannual Financial Framework after refusing to sign off on a Council Secretariat decision that asked representatives of other EU countries to agree on using only English for the group’s meetings. Generally, the Council provides translation in several official languages for such high-level meetings.
I applaud Léglise-Costa decision to leave the meeting, not only because French is one of the EU’s official working languages but it is his right under the European Council directives and the common basis of the European Union. One example of this principle can be seen is the EU directive on the right to interpretation and translation of criminal procedures.
We know that French historic role as the traditional language of international diplomacy has waned in recent decades amid the spread of English, especially in the EU as new countries joined, including from Eastern Europe and the Baltics, where English is more commonly taught as a second language. But Léglise-Costa raised his voice against the Council decision, arguing that France was defending “multilingualism as well as Francophony,” particularly within a group that would be discussing billions of euros in revenues and spending.
When we think about Europe, we also have to think about cultural and language diversity and take into account that English is not the primary language of any of its members (except for Ireland and the United Kingdom, that won't be part of the EU in the near future. There are some countries where English is a de facto official, but not a primary language, ex. Malta).
In accordance with the EU population, the most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%), followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each). For the majority of Europeans, their mother tongue is one of the official languages of the country in which they reside.
To stand up and defy the status quo of English as a primary language show bravery and logical thinking. Surprises me that someone would think otherwise.