English, a Protected Species In The EU After "brexit"

Julio Galvez

Brussels, Jan 21 (EFE) .- The United Kingdom will leave the European Union (EU) on January 31, but its language, English, will remain an official language of the community club after that date, unless the Twenty-seven Member States unanimously decide to withdraw that status later, an unlikely scenario.



Already after the 2016 referendum in which the British voted in favor of "brexit", doubts arose about whether English would remain an official language in the European Union, and community leaders joked about how Shakespeare's language will remain in a second EU plane after the British exit.

"Slowly, but surely, English is losing importance in Europe," the then president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said in 2017.

However, the rules of the Union and the comfort of community officials and politicians point in the opposite direction.


When a new country becomes part of the European Union, it indicates a language that it wishes to use as its official language in the community club and although Ireland and Malta also have English as their official language in their territories, for the EU they selected Irish and the Maltese.

Indeed, only the United Kingdom chose English when they entered the European Union in 1973 and thus became part of the list of official languages ​​of the community club.

However, the inclusion or elimination of an official language in the list can only be carried out if all EU Member States unanimously approve it.

Therefore, leaving the United Kingdom does not imply that English will automatically cease to have official status in the community club.

From the EU Council, which brings together all countries, they recognize that since English is an official language also in Ireland and Malta, a unanimous decision to withdraw its official status "seems unlikely."

For their part, sources from the European Commission admit that English is used "widely" in the institution because "the majority" of its officials speak it and because "it is also used a lot" by Union partners "across the globe ".

In addition to being official, English is one of the three working languages ​​of the Community Executive, along with French and German, and both the Shakespeare and Molière languages ​​are used more frequently than Goethe's.


The analyst Paul Butcher, of the European Policy Center, says that English "is here to stay" when asked if the language could lose influence in the EU after "brexit".

"English is already perceived as an international language and is by far the most common intercultural means of communication in Europe, especially among young people," he says, adding that "social reality" in community institutions is that "a lot more people speak English than French or any other competitor, which means that it is simply inevitable for English to maintain its dominant position. "

In that sense, he notes that the days when Esperanto could be proposed "seriously" as a universal auxiliary language "passed long ago."

"English has already become the universal auxiliary language. It has reached that status not because it is the language of the United Kingdom, but because it is that of the United States, the cultural 'hegemonic' for most of the twentieth century, when globalization changed the way the world works, "he argues.

From the Open Europe study center they are also convinced that English will continue to be the most used language in the EU, "if only because the knowledge of any other competing language such as French, German or perhaps even Spanish is quite low in some Member States, "acknowledges the director of the institution in Brussels, Pieter Cleppe.

If in the early years of the community project the French had a leading role, over the years he lost ground against the English.

Cleppe admits that one of the factors was the entry into the EU of countries in which the Gala language does not have as much tradition, as the Nordics or most of the Eastern States.

"But I think you could say that globalization in general has really boosted the use of English," he complements.

In similar terms, Butcher expresses himself from the European Policy Center, since he affirms that the enlargement of the EU in 2004 "changed the arithmetic" in favor of English "overnight," but reiterates that "the triumph" of the language Shakespeare on Molière's "was already guaranteed" and adds that 51% of Europeans speak "at least something" of the British language, compared to 26% in the Gallic case.

In addition, the two analysts agree that they see it unlikely that community officials and politicians decide to study French if they already speak English. EFE

jug / cm / cdp

(More information on the European Union at euroefe.euractiv.es)