Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban presented, on 18 September, a new strategy for multilingualism for an EU with 23 official languages and more than 60 spoken languages. Orban's policy document calls for more use to be made of existing EU programmes. The European Commission will review progress in 2012. Points stressed in the communication include how language skills improve employability and European competitiveness, ways to encourage EU citizens to speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue and how media and new technologies can promote multilingualism and intercultural understanding.
"With this communication, we are prompting the EU member states, local authorities and social partners to join forces and take action," said Orban. He stressed how globalisation and immigration flows are further adding to the range of languages used daily by Europeans. The current challenge is that of minimising the obstacles that EU citizens and companies encounter in terms of multilingualism as well as empowering them to take advantage of the opportunities presented by multilingualism. "We should not expect to see results immediately, but working with the member states we will be successful," said Orban, warning that the strategy needs to be implemented seriously by all member states.
The communication proposes a series of practical actions by both the Commission and national authorities. For instance, the points of single contact', to be established at national level under the Services Directive (123/2006/EC) by the end of 2009, should provide necessary information in "different" languages. Member states are also urged to facilitate access to targeted courses of the host country's language(s) for non-native speakers or to help develop their citizens' language skills acquired outside the formal education system. The Commission wants national authorities to encourage trade promotion organisations to develop specific programmes, in particular for SMEs, that include language training. …