Boost German language provision, MEPs urge Council

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The European Parliament has called on the European Council to boost the use of German and other languages on its websites, including those of EU presidencies.

“The information on these websites should, ideally, be made available in good time in all official languages of the Community,” reads a resolution adopted on 20 November by an overwhelming majority of 509 votes to two. 

MEPs asked future Council presidencies “to use the most widely spoken official languages according to an order of priority,” and in particular to make sure that their websites “be made available in German”. 

German ranks alongside English and French as an official working language of the EU insitutions. The website of the upcoming Czech EU Presidency, set to take place in the first half of 2009, is available in English and French only. But outgoing presidency holder France made its portal available in French, English, German, Spanish and Italian and made a limited amount of information available in all 23 official EU languages. 

Parliament’s resolution, drafted by German MEP Rainer Wieland (EPP-ED), related to a 2004 complaint to the European Ombudsman lodged by the Verein Deutsche Sprache (VDS), a German language association. 

VDS was concerned by the failure of the Dutch and Luxembourg governments to offer Internet presentations related to their EU presidencies in German, as well as English and French. The Ombudsman ruled that the Council’s failure to address the association’s request constituted maladministration. 

Parliamentarians accused the Council of having “completely avoided addressing […] the question of the language options of the websites of its presidencies” raised by the Ombudsman. 

Hailing the MEPs’ vote, VDS board member Dr. Dietrich Voslamber said his organisation had pushed the European Council to “pay more attention to Europe’s linguistic diversity”. But he lamented the fact that the Parliament’s position was not legally binding, calling on the Council and future presidencies “to respect political will […] by better providing for the German language”. 

Earlier this year, German MP Klaus-Peter Willsch (CDU) called for all official webpages of the EU institutions, as well as all relevant documents, to be translated into German. “The German language must at least be put on an equal footing with English and French,” Willsch said, adding that “discrimination” against German in the EU “cannot continue” (EURACTIV 31/01/08). 

EU governments, meanwhile, called on the European Commission to take “particular care to provide information in all [the bloc’s] official languages and to promote multilingualism on [its] websites” during a Council meeting in Brussels last month (EURACTIV 24/11/08). 

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