French to Lead During France’s EU Presidency

The French language is poised to become the main language of the European Union’s (EU’s) meetings, notes, and debates during France’s presidency of the bloc from January 2022 to June 2022. France is planning to host major EU meetings in French, a move that breaks with the long-held tradition of hosting such meetings in English. This will be the first time the nation has held the presidency since 2008, long before Brexit.

“Even if we admit that English is a working language and it is commonly practiced, the basis to express oneself in French remains fully in place in the EU institutions,” an unnamed senior French diplomat told POLITICO. “We must enrich it, and make it live again so that the French language truly regains ground, and above that, the taste and pride of multilingualism.”

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has made improvement of the French language’s international status a priority of his throughout his tenure. The language was once considered the lingua franca of the EU, especially in the institution’s early years. The language already has a relatively important role compared to many of the other official languages of the EU, as it is one of three working languages of the European Commission, alongside German and English.

In an article published in Le Figaro, France’s EU affairs minister Clement Beaune and secretary of state Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said the use of French in Brussels “had diminished to the benefit of English, and more often to Globish – that ersatz of the English language, which narrows the scope of one’s thoughts, and restricts one’s ability to express him or herself”.

They added that the presidency created “an opportunity to hold high this vital fight for multilingualism.”

However, POLITICO reports that some international diplomats are skeptical of the move, viewing it more as a desperate grasp for relevance and a nostalgic attempt to return to the days of old, when French was at the forefront of the international stage.

Andrew Warner

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