Germany’s call for multilingualism falls on deaf ears in Finland

Germany is stepping up its fight for the use of German at EU level. In the meantime, Finland insists that during its presidency it will only make press releases and working documents available in English and French.

In the EU all legislative texts are translated into its twenty official languages. However, increasingly most other documents are only available in one or two languages, English and French. 

Germany is now determined to reverse the trend. On Thursday, 20 April, German Minister of State for Europe Günter Gloser reiterated his demand that all official EU documents should be available in German, German being the biggest language in the EU with more than 90 million native speakers. 

So far, Germany has found two major allies in its fight against monolingualism: France and the European Ombudsman. On 30 March 2006 Nikiforos Diamandouros recommended to the Council to reconsider its choice of languages for the EU Presidency websites and asked the Council to send a detailed opinion by 30 June 2006.

Furthermore, in a joint statement of 6 April 2006 the Presidiums of the German Bundestag and the French Assemblée nationale denounced the “unacceptable tendency towards a one-language-regime”. The principle of equality of languages should be upheld as an expression of the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity. All documents adopted by the Commissions should be accessible in the official languages, as this was a precondition for the control of legislative acts by the national parliaments, they emphasised. 

However, according to reports by the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland during its EU presidency, which starts on 1 July 2006, intends to publish press releases and workings documents in English and French only. A representative of the Finnish EU representation in Brussels told the newspaper that, after all, the documents would not be translated into Finnish or Swedish either, despite the fact that they are official EU languages. 

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