Italian Presidency website will not be in French or German

Matteo Renzi

Italy's Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, speaking during the G7 in Brussels, 5 June 2014 [Palazzo Chigi/Flickr]

The Italian Presidency of the European Union’s official website will only publish in English and Italian, meaning it will not be translated into French or German for the first time since 2007, EURACTIV France reports.

The Italians, who take over from the Greek Presidency on 1 July, have opted not to translate their official website, which goes live in the next few days, to French, German or any of the other 24 official languages of the EU, to save money. The choice was made by Enrico Letta’s government and approved by his successor, Matteo Renzi, Italy’s Prime Minister who will be at the controls of the EU until December, 2014.

>> Read: EURACTIV Italy: Presidency: website only in Italian and English

The decision shows how English has become increasingly dominant in European communications, especially when compared to the European Commission’s two other official working languages – French and German.

Multi-linguist tradition

Since 2007, all EU presidencies made a point of offering multilingual websites. They have always included German, French, English and their national language.

Although the European Union has 24 official languages, the working languages of the European Commission are just English, French and German.

During their Presidency in 2008, France went beyond the call of duty and translated their website into Polish, Spanish and Italian. In 2010, Spain also produced versions in their main regional languages of Catalan, Basque and Galatian.

Greece, which is currently President of the Council, had a mandate marked by austerity and limited their spending to €50 million. Despite their tight budget, the official website still offered four languages: Greek and the three EU working languages, English, French and German.


Italy’s decision has caused a stir among MEPs. “It is a disgrace” said Michèle Rivasi, the leader of the French Greens in the European Parliament. “Considering the rise of Euroscepticism in wake of the European elections, this decision almost comes as provocation,” she continued.

According to the French MEP, budget cuts do not justify the decision to leave out French and German. “Cuts could have been made elsewhere, for example, on the Presidency’s subsistence costs or on transport.”

“I think we will call on the Presidency of the European Parliament to address this issue,” she said.

>>Read:  Eurostat: English reinforces its status as Europe’s ‘lingua franca’

Italy’s decision not to limit the translation of their official language is not an isolated case. English has emerged as the most dominant working language of the EU institutions over the past few years, at the expense of French and German.

The main responsibility of the Presidency is to preside over the creation of EU legislation, a task shared with the European Parliament, to ensure the continuity of the EU agenda, orderly legislative processes, and to represent the interests of all the member states.

The rotating Presidency heads the EU Council and its preparatory bodies (working parties and committees), and organises various formal and informal meetings in Brussels as well as in the country of the rotating Presidency. It hosts discussions in the EU Council and seeks the broad consensus of its members during debates on important matters for the entire EU, while making decisions.

The rotating Presidency represents the EU Council in relations with other EU institutions, especially the European Commission and the European Parliament, and it also shapes its relations with other EU institutions. In order to ensure the continuity of the Council agenda and the coherent transfer of the Presidency, the member states holding the rotating Presidency closely cooperate in trios. This system was introduced in 2009 with the Lisbon Treaty. The trio sets the long-term goals and prepares a common agenda for an 18-month period.

The Lisbon Treaty established two new functions; the President of the European Council, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. With these innovations the role of the rotating Presidency has changed, since it does not preside over meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council and the European Council anymore. The rotating Presidency, however, continues its close cooperation with the European Council and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

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