English will remain an official language of the EU

English is a vital relay language for interpreters, who use it as a bridge between two less commonly-used languages, for example, Hungarian and Gaelic. [IAEA/Flickr]

English will indeed stay an official language of the European Union when the UK leaves the bloc, according to the Commission’s Representation in Ireland, refuting the claims of a senior MEP.

On Monday (27 June), MEP Danuta Hübner (EPP) claimed that English will cease to be an official language of the EU once the UK leaves the Union. The head of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) said that each member state identifies one official language and that the UK is currently the only country to nominate English as such.

However, the Commission’s representation in Ireland moved to counter this claim in an official statement released today (28 June). The executive said that it is up to the Council of Ministers to vote unanimously on changes to the institutions’ language regime.

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.

The statement cited Article 342 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, which states that “the rules governing the languages of the institutions of the Union shall, without prejudice to the provisions contained in the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Union, be determined by the Council, acting unanimously by means of regulations.”

The UK is, of course, not the only country to have English as one of its official languages; Ireland and Malta both use the language as well.

English dominates among the three working languages of the EU (French and German), partly as a result of the various enlargements the bloc has undergone. Most of the countries that have acceded to the bloc in recent years use English as their second language and it therefore operates as a natural relay language between the EU’s 24 official tongues.

Changes to the EU’s language regime would come with huge added costs, given that translation accounts for 1% of the annual budget. Adding a different working language or altering language combinations would necessitate additional recruitment and could take years to organise.

Language discrimination rife across EU

Calls for legislation to be drawn up or even for a Language Commissioner to be appointed have been made, in order to combat a rising number of discrimination cases across the European Union.

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