Speaking on International Francophony day (20 March), the French President stressed the need to make more frequent use of the French language in international institutions, including the EU.
“The promotion of Francophony is in our interests,” he said, urging diplomats from France and other countries from the 68-member International Francophonie Organisation (OIF), to “be vigilant about using French in the international arena”.
“It seems strange for the least, for example, that the head of a State where French is the official language, should choose to address the whole of the international community in English from the tribune of the United Nations, before coming down and complaining that French is not sufficiently defended,” he explained, pleading for a more “offensive Francophony”.
International Francophony Day is celebrated each year to promote the use of the ninth most spoken language in the world, with 200 million people speaking it at least partially.
French is also the second most spoken language in the EU, after German but ahead of English. Sarkozy said he would “supervise the statute of French in the European Union” and push ahead with efforts to “maintain an equilibrium between the Union’s working languages”.
This year’s event, officially celebrated in the Vietnam capital Hanoï, placed a particular focus on “new technologies to promote a new Francophonie”.
In this sense, OIF Secretary General Abdou Diouf highlighted the importance of developing “a numerical Francophony”, by investing massively in digital technologies and improving developing countries’ access to them, notably through training programmes. “Our credibility is at stake. We cannot place solidarity at the heart of Francophony while at the same time letting the numerical divide grow.”
He further deplored the “colonisation” of digital instruments, such as the internet, by the English language. “What is at stake in the conquest of these new spaces is also the conquest of minds and the imagination,” he explained.