Search icon


08th Jun 2021

French set to replace English as EU’s ‘working language’

Charlie Herbert

French to replace English as EU's 'working language'

“The basis to express oneself in French remains fully in place in the EU institutions”

France is making plans for French to replace English as the official “working language” of the European Union.

The French government is taking over the presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2022, which will be the country’s first presidency since Brexit. According to reports, they will be using the presidency to push the French language as the “lingua franca” in Brussels.

A senior French diplomat told Politico: “Even if we admit that English is a working language and it is commonly practised, the basis to express oneself in French remains fully in place in the EU institutions.

“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.

“There will be more visibility with the French presidency, so we will intensify our work.”

The diplomat said that all high-level meetings of the Council – the body that helps set the political agenda for the EU in Brussels – will be in French instead of English during the six-month presidency. It will be the first time that France has been in charge of the Council since 2008, when Nicolas Sarkozy was president.

Notes and minutes from meetings will also be “French-first” and the Council will expect all letters from the EU Commission to be in French.

“We will always ask the Commission to send us in French the letters it wishes to address to the French authorities, and if they fail to do so, we will wait for the French version before sending it,” the diplomat said.

Since the UK left the European Union, French ministers have been keen to push French as the official language used by officials and ministers in Brussels.

In an article published in French paper Le Figaro back in April, EU affairs minister Clement Beaune and secretary of state Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said that the presidency created “an opportunity to hold high this vital fight for multilingualism.”

They said that 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.”