Brussel’s watchdog has taken two years to reach a decision on whether the EU has discriminated against the German language, it’s emerged.
The complaint centres on the promotional boards that form the backdrop of Brussels press conferences.
An organisation that seeks to protect the German language complained, upset the European Commission (EC) was only written on these boards in French and English. It said this went against EU law and discriminated against the German language.
The complaint first surfaced in 2012, and has been in the hands of the European Ombudsman, which investigates issues of alleged injustice in the European Union, since March 2014.
The complainant argued the promotional boards should have the European Commission written, if not in all of its official languages, at least in the most spoken ones, adding “the Commission’s visual identity has to address the needs of the 500 million EU citizens sitting in front of their televisions, rather than those of a few dozen journalists in Brussels.”
The ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, in her 2,700-word summing up of the case, said multilingualism was an important plank of the European identity and that the EC was not guilty of ‘maladministration’.
She added: “As to whether there is an objective justification in the present case, the Ombudsman agrees that it is technically not possible to present the term ‘European Commission’ in 24 languages on a television screen, either below, alongside or behind a speaker.
“If the Commission attempted to do so, the print would be too small for TV viewers to read.
“As to whether the Commission could have chosen more languages, the Ombudsman considers that it was reasonable for the Commission to have chosen just two languages. Essentially, the choice of the number of languages to use comes down to a judgement call as to whether the use of more than two languages would clutter the visual image.
“The Ombudsman does not consider that there was any manifest error of assessment as regards the judgement call made by the Commission.
“As to whether those two languages should have been languages other than French and English, the Ombudsman considers that it would have been reasonable for the Commission to have chosen various combinations of languages, for example, English and German, French and German, or French and Dutch. However, the mere fact that other language combination might also have been reasonable choices does not imply that the choice of English and French was not reasonable.”
A spokeswoman for the European Ombudsman, which had an annual budget of nine million euros in 2014, told Euronews: “The Ombudsman has limited resources and we used these limited resources over two years, to focus on our strategic priorities address things like transparency in the TTIP negotiations. We do a lot of work on lobbying transparency, too.
“It’s true that cases like this one are not at the top of the priority list. We apologised to the complainant for this.”