Blog AnalysisEU Institutions

Lost in translation – the Francophonie is lost in institutions (maj)

(B2) English and French are normally “the working languages” (*) in foreign policy (with German in the Community framework, on the side of the European Commission). This practice is now being undermined very regularly. The evidence…

NB: In linguistic matters, the only mandatory rule is the use and publication in all official EU languages. No official document can normally be published until it is translated into all these languages. A practice scrupulously respected by the official journal and to a certain extent by the Court of Justice of the EU. In order to facilitate the work of the institutions, a practice of “working languages” was put in place to offer everyone a language in which they would be more comfortable, in the two major European linguistic groups (Latin and Anglo languages). -Saxon).

Information in English

Very often, the English version is the only one available, with the French version only being published afterwards (if ever). Some concrete examples on subjects far from technical:

26th May 2015 – the complete “fact sheet” on European engagement in the Central African Republic (CAR), published after a major meeting in Brussels on the Bekou Fund! Only the more succinct press release is published in French.

13th May 2015 – the “communication” from the European Commission on the migration agenda. A notable effort has been made to translate various information tools (the press kit) into French (and most European languages). This effort stopped at “official communication”.

9th May 2015 – information on Europe Day and the open day of the European Diplomatic Service (EEAS), on the EEAS website, is only published in one language (English) although it is mainly aimed at all citizens.

8th May 2015 – the two reports on the defense summit are only published by the European Commission in English. The press release is only written in English (a translation into French is in progress...)

6th May 2015 – European Parliament – ​​the director of the European Defense Agency (EDA), J. Domecq, makes his presentation entirely in English, despite the presence of interpreters and the fact that the person concerned speaks French perfectly.

April 28th – the two communications on “security” (2015 security agenda, security and development) are published only in English.

Monolingual websites

Furthermore, fifteen Directorates General of the Commission (and not the least notably the “economic” DGs) are only in English:

  • Climate action (CLIMA) English
  • Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN) English
  • Joint Research Center (JRC) English
  • Trade (TRADE) English
  • International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) English
  • Energy (ENER) English
  • Environment (ENV) English
  • Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW) English
  • Migration and Home Affairs (HOME) English
  • Mobility and transport (MOVE) English
  • Research and innovation (RTD) English
  • Communication Networks, Content and Technologies (CNECT) English
  • Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) English
  • Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (FISMA) English
  • Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR) English

A European diplomatic service reduced to monolingualism

Taking into account one week of activity of the EEAS – the European diplomatic service – out of 30 pieces of information published, only 9 have a French version. And, for some (death penalty in Nebraska, Taiwan, etc.), we wonder why.

CSDP missions and operations that communicate almost exclusively in English

The information sites of most CSDP missions/operations are produced in English-speaking 'monolingual' mode. The only exception: missions established in French-speaking countries. But here again French is in decline. EUTM Mali – the site of the mission deployed in Mali (EUTM Mali) – a French-speaking country – has sometimes renounced the use of French for certain press releases published exclusively in English on its site.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).