'Stop using so much English', French journalists tell EU Commission

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. Copyright Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP
Copyright Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP
By Alice Tidey
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French journalists in Brussels complain Commission uses too much English


French journalists covering the European Union have complained to the bloc's chiefs about the increasing use of English in their communication which they say gives un "competitive advantage" to the anglophone press.

The French section of the Association of European Journalists reminded Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel in a letter dated September 23 that the use of several European languages in the communication of any EU institution is a legal obligation enshrined in founding treaties. 

Taking as an example the EU's proposed migration pact unveiled earlier this week, they complained that all communication about it was only released in English.

"No version in any other working language (French or German) was available, more than two hours after the official communication. At the end of the day, only the two-page press release was available in French. This is out of proportion with the constraints of speed inherent to the journalism profession," they wrote. 

"This seems all the more unacceptable to us since this is not an isolated case, but a repeated practice, now almost systematic, especially since your arrival as head of the European Commission," they added. 

They argued that the increasing practice of communicating in only one language makes disinformation easier and that other countries including Russia, China and the US regularly makes official documents available in other languages including French, Spanish and German.

"By the way, by focusing on a single language you give a notable competitive advantage to the English-speaking press, which does not need to translate and can simply copy and paste extracts. The French-speaking press, and others, are required to translate or even interpret all comments as well as technical terms. There is a clear distortion of competition, contrary to European treaties," they went on. 

Von der Leyen, a Brussels-born German politician speaks German, French and English fluently and regularly slips in and out of them when she delivers speeches.

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