Making sure different languages are represented at the heart of the EU is essential for democracy, according to Abdou Diouf, secretary-general of the ‘Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie’, the international French-language association.
Speaking to EURACTIV France in an interview, Diouf lamented the “weakening” of multilingualism in the EU institutions and called for an “ambitious policy” aimed at restoring language pluralism and arresting the slide towards a monolingual Europe.
This slide is triggered by an “uneven, uniform globalisation” which does not much care for cultural and linguistic diversity, argues Diouf, pointing to the tendency of the business world to move towards “linguistic uniformity and increasingly widespread use of English”.
But if the European project is to continue to attract the support of its citizens, then their languages and cultures must be represented as “language and democracy are inextricably linked,” he says.
Declaring himself “delighted with the Francophone outlook of President Sarkozy,” Diouf described the French president as an “ardent promoter of the French language and values”. But “you cannot promote what is already well entrenched,” he warned, explaining that it is important to encourage the spread of French to new areas as well as maintain its current strongholds across the world.
An effective multilingualism policy “does not mean a crusade in favour of a single language but promoting and supporting the principle of linguistic pluralism and the representation of several languages at the heart of the European Union,” Diouf said.
The Commission is set to publish its new strategy on multilingualism in September 2008 (see EURACTIV 19/02/08), while the EU institutions are currently reviewing their translation and interpreting regimes as part of a wider debate over the scope and cost of multilingualism policy – currently worth €1.1bn or 1% of the EU budget.