Academic journal article European Studies

The Lisbon Treaty and Linguistic Diversity: Policy and Practice in the European Institutions

Academic journal article European Studies

The Lisbon Treaty and Linguistic Diversity: Policy and Practice in the European Institutions

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Lisbon Treaty, signed in December 2007, indicates that the EU shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe's cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced. What does the new Treaty article on linguistic diversity mean for the policies and practices in the EU? This chapter answer this question by examining three areas. Firstly, the policy and pragmatic aspects of dealing with 23 official languages in the European institutions. Secondly, the way in which language issues are taken into account in the development of the internal market. For instance, what is the effect of linguistic requirements on the free movement of persons and goods? Thirdly, European policies supporting multilingualism across the Union are discussed, e.g. the so-called 'Barcelona objective' according to which each European citizen should be able to communicate in his/her mother tongue plus two other languages.

Introduction

Back in 1951, when the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was signed, hardly anyone could have predicted that European co-operation would transform itself over the years into the biggest experiment in multilingualism in human history. In fact, the start of this co-operation was not really multilingual: Article 1 00 of the ECSC Treaty stated that 'The present Treaty, drawn up in a single copy, shall be deposited in the archives of the Government of the French Republic [...]'. Only the original French version of the Treaty - the single copy referred to in article 100 - was authentic.

This state of affairs was corrected in 1957 in the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community and the Euratom Treaty. These texts were authenticated in French, German, Italian and Dutch, the languages of the six participating countries. One of the practical consequences of working with different languages was immediately visible at the signature ceremony in Rome in 1957. Although the negotiators and translators worked frantically until the last moment, the final texts were not ready on time. On 25 March 1957, at six ? clock in the evening, when the ceremony took place, there were piles of blank sheets of paper on the table. The only 'real' ones were those used to collect the signatures (Maas 1968, 205).

Since 1957 the initial European collaboration in economic areas has developed into the European Union. New Member States have joined the European project and as a consequence the number of Treaty languages and official languages of the Union has gradually grown from 4 to 23. The Lisbon Treaty that entered into force on 1 December 2009 added a new clause, which highlights the importance given to the coexistence of different languages within the Union. Article 3 of the consolidated Treaty on European Union (TEU), describing its aims, stipulates amongst other things that the Union 'shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe's cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced'. This does not represent a fundamentally new direction, but describes in polished diplomatic language the existing balance within the Union in this politically sensitive area, while at the same time raising the issue to Treaty level. The provision mirrors article 22 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (ECFR), which states that: 'The Union respects cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.' Since the Charter now has the same legal value as the Treaties,2 the respect of linguistic diversity has a double anchorage in the basic texts of the Union.

So what does this mean in real terms? Which situations have been targeted and where could articles 3 of the TEU and 22 of the ECFR play a concrete role in the future, in spite of (or perhaps thanks to) their rather open formulation? This chapter considers the main areas where this could be the case: the use of official languages in the European institutions; the way in which multilingualism is taken into account in the policies for the internal market; and finally the European policies supporting multilingualism and their limits. …

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