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100% English. It's no. AJE-France sends a letter to Von der Leyen

(B2) The EU executive has chosen to communicate only in English during the (major) presentation of the pact on migration and asylum. This is not an isolated case. The French section of the association of European journalists officially protested in a letter

English only - the French version is crossed out on the Commission's website (screenshot taken on the European Commission's website on September 23 at 14 p.m.

Since the arrival of the German Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, monolingualism is in order. Under the previous Commission, headed by the Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker, a certain balance had been achieved. Today, the pendulum has swung back. The vast majority of documents submitted to the European Commission are only in English. This is reflected in the communication from the European executive, in contravention of all European rules and customs which require that at least three working languages ​​(French, English, German) be used.


Paris – Brussels, September 23, 2020

Ms Ursula von der Leyen

President of the European Commission

Copy: Charles Michel

President of the European Council

Clement Beaune

Secretary of State for European Affairs

Madame President,

We would like to send you our strongest remarks concerning the presentation this Wednesday of the pact for migration and asylum. The documents (press release, memo, communication, legislative proposals) were presented to the press – and to the public – in only one language (English). No version in another working language (French or German) was available, more than two hours after the official communication. At the end of the day, only the two-page press release was available in French. Which is out of proportion with the speed constraints of the profession of journalist.

This seems all the more unacceptable to us since it is not an isolated case, but a repeated practice, now almost systematic, especially since your arrival at the head of the European Commission. We regret it. Need we remind you that the use of several languages ​​is not only a legal obligation of the Treaties, but also has a valuable political and practical significance?

First of all, the EU Treaty has established as a rule official communication in all the languages ​​spoken in Europe. And practice has consecrated the simultaneous and equal use of three working languages. These translations are not an option for the European institutions, but an obligation. Obligation which, if it were not to be respected, would result in the cancellation of the decisions taken. The Court's case law on recruitment bears witness to this.

Next, the European institutions cannot validly continue to want to fight against disinformation if they persistently persist in communicating in only one language. The first role of a politician is to provide better information to the public. And how to do it without going through the linguistic filter? Need we remind you that countries like Russia, China or the United States regularly make most of their decisions available in languages ​​other than their official language, in particular in French, Spanish or German? To deprive itself of this tool amounts, in fact, for the EU to giving a premium to disinformation.

By the way, let us specify by favoring a single language, you give a significant competitive advantage to the English-speaking press which does not need to translate and can take extracts from a simple cut and paste. The French-speaking press, and the others, are required to translate, even to interpret all the remarks as well as the technical terms. There is a clear distortion of competition, contrary to the European treaties.

Finally, how do you want to "rebuild trust" with citizens, an objective set by yourself, without expressing yourself (minima) in the three working languages. This allows everyone to have a local language.

Hoping that decisive changes will be made quickly to regain a minimum of linguistic balance, we ask you, Madam President, to accept the expression of our most sincere greetings. We are of course at your disposal to discuss this issue in more detail.

For the AJE France Office

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

To download the letter

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).

6 thoughts on “100% English. It's no. AJE-France sends a letter to Von der Leyen"

  • Le Masne De Chermont

    I fully agree with the terms of your collective letter addressed to Mrs Von der Layen. This expression in a single language is not only contrary to the European treaties but moreover, English is the language of the country which is withdrawing from the EU, the only one within the Union whose mother tongue is English. A height!

  • Jean-Luc Laffineur

    Well done Mr. Gros-Verheyde. Your contribution is added to that of an association, Pour une Gouvernance Européenne Multilingue (GEM+), an article of which was published last Monday on the Libre Belgique website:
    This evolution towards monolingualism is ethically unacceptable, democratically dangerous and profoundly anti-European.

  • It is quite incomprehensible that English is a language of the Union since it is no longer spoken except by Ireland and Malta! Or 1% of the population.

  • bocholier

    If the European community exists, it is primarily thanks to the Franco-German reconciliation, when Chancellor Konrad Adenauer came to La Boisserie, at General De Gaulle's. The history of the community began like this!!!!
    – Priority to French and German !!!!!
    (Other languages ​​of course are allowed!!!…. It goes without saying…. Dutch Italian… Speaking in your mother tongue, of course…! )

  • The heart

    100% agree with the first comment (Le Masne de Chermont)! Nothing to add.

  • Patrizia Lenzarini

    The wealth of Europe also passes through the diversity of its languages. This is why I strongly support taking a stand against monolingualism which would impoverish the culture of our continent.

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