Merkel urged to strengthen German language in Brussels

The Budget Committee of the Bundestag has adopted a proposal that exhorts the German government to push for the greater use of German as an official language in the EU and return the institutions’ German-translated documents to Berlin. 

The 20 June 2007 proposal said that German should be “taken into consideration according to its relevance” in Europe.

The Committee argued that all documents would have to be translated into German if they were relevant to the Parliament’s participation in EU affairs. According to the German Bundestag, the institution currently receives many documents that are relevant to the EU decision-making process, but which were either not or only partly translated into German.

Furthermore, the proposal asks the government to engage the European Commission over displaying future expenditures for translations separately, and to break them down into respective target languages. Thus, the need and demand for translations and the quality of translation itself could be better quantified, the Budget Committee stated.

Conservative Klaus-Peter Willsch (CDU), chairman of the sub-committee on European issues, explained that one reason for the proposal is that German is the mother tongue of 90 million out of 493 million EU citizens. Thus, German is the most spoken mother tongue and – next to English – the “second-most important foreign language” in the EU. 

Regarding current translation practice in EU institutions, Willsch was particularly critical of the fact that the decision for or against full translation of documents was made according to purely formal criteria, without taking documents’ political relevance fully into account.

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