In another blow to French pride, the Italian government have decided not to bother using French on their official website when they take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1st.
The website will be in English and Italian only, despite French, English and German being the official working language in EU institutions. The Italians, struggling with a shrinking economy, say they have dropped French to save money.
The French in particular are likely to see the Italian decision as another sign of the movement towards English language dominance in the EU, which began with the admission of seven former Eastern Bloc countries in 2004. Eastern European politicians, bureaucrats and journalists arrived in Brussels fluent in English, the international business language, but not in French.
According to Euractiv, 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.”
So touchy are the French about the growing dominance of English over French in Brussels that the French foreign affairs ministry has prepared a booklet telling their officials how to insist that French is used in EU institutions.
Diplomats and bureaucrats are warned to speak French in meetings “whether there is an interpreter or not.” Even in informal meetings, French representatives should express themselves “exclusively in their language.”
Any circumstances in an EU meeting which make it impossible for French to be used “must be reported to the French authorities.” If necessary, French representatives can require that the meeting is postponed.