Cyprus: Make Turkish an official EU language

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, known as the father of modern Turkey, implemented a number of reforms intended to "Europeanise" the former Ottoman Empire, including switching from Arabic to Latin script. [Tony Woods/Flickr]

Greek-Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has asked the Dutch EU Presidency to add Turkish to the bloc’s 24 official languages, in order to boost attempts to reach a reunification agreement on the Mediterranean island.

In a letter to the Dutch presidency, the existence of which was confirmed on Monday (29 February), Anastasiades called upon the EU to lay the groundwork that would enable the bloc to start using Turkish as one of its official languages.

It is a request that Cyprus had already made back in 2002 when it was negotiating its own accession to the EU. However, it was advised not to pursue the matter too aggressively, given the inherent costs that come with more language combinations and the delicate matter of EU-Turkey relations.

Nicosia’s renewed interest in seeing Turkish added to the EU’s language roster suggests that a reunification settlement is in the offing and that both sides are confident of a deal being struck soon.

Cyprus itself has both Greek and Turkish as its official languages, with the majority of Turkish speakers living in the North. However, official languages at a domestic level are not always granted the same status by the EU. For example, Luxembourgish was made an official language of the Grand Duchy in 1984, but it has never sought the same status for it at a European level.

Changes to the bloc’s language policy can only be made by a unanimous decision from all 28 member states.

Irish to be given full official EU language status

Although it has been an official language of the EU since 2007, Irish will now be gradually upgraded to a full working language of the European institutions.

Each branch of the EU has its own translation service, with the Commission’s DG Translation dealing with the largest workload. It operates on a budget of roughly €330 million per year. In 2014, it processed 2.3 million pages. Estimates have put the total cost of translation for all the institutions at around 1% of the EU’s annual budget, or €2 per EU citizen.

It is estimated that adding another language would incur an additional cost of €37 million, as the number of language combinations would increase from the current figure of 552 to 600. However, the implementation of Turkish would likely not be too much of an upheaval, given that institutions such as the Council already have Turkish language specialists, as the EU frequently negotiates and is in dialogue with Ankara.

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