Ferrari RIPS into Juncker over English language jibe
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Ray Bassett said the French President’s apparent ambitions for his mother tongue were as “delusional” as his belief that Brexit would mark the UK’s economic demise. Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, was speaking after French MEP Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, a close ally of Mr Macron, broached the subject at the weekend.
Specifically, Mr Lemoyne suggested his country would use its forthcoming Presidency of the EU to lobby for English no longer to be one of the bloc’s official languages.
However, Mr Bassett suggested both he and Mr Macron would ultimately be disappointed.
He told Express.co.uk: “As you know I have always felt that the French Government has seen Brexit as an opportunity to lessen the importance of English in the institutions of the European Union.
“The French language has been losing prominence for years. When I started going to meetings of the then EEC in the late 1970s, French was actually the dominant language to be heard in the corridors of power in Brussels.
“Over the years that has changed and French is now very much in retreat.
“The accession of Central and East European countries into the EU has accentuated that trend as in none of the new member States is French the most studied foreign language.”
Mr Bassett highlighted an infamous remark by Jean-Claude Juncker in 2017, when the then-European Commission President claimed “English is losing importance in the EU”.
Mr Bassett said: “This was hardly a comforting thought for the linguistically challenged Irish politicians and officials.
“However, I do not see much solid evidence of the French push for greater use of its language making much headway in the meantime.
“Hence the idea that the French might use its forthcoming Presidency of the EU to insist on greater use of its language.”
Nevertheless, Mr Bassett argued their hopes of success were “doomed to failure because of wider considerations”.
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He explained: “Internationally French has been losing popularity, not only relative to English but also Spanish and Mandarin.
“In terms of business, German would appear to have the upper hand on French, particularly with the European Central Bank based in Frankfurt.
“While the EU does not have a single working language officially, the reality is that English will keep its place as the dominant means of communication as this reflects wider society.”
Mr Bassett added: “I am afraid that the French efforts to turn back the clock to the 1970s are essentially futile efforts to regain the past glories of France.
“Just as President Macron’s rather delusional boasts about the economic demise of the UK post-Brexit, the push for greater use of the French language in the EU looks equally wide of the mark.”
Speaking on French television, En Marche politician Mr Lemoyne, while referring to France’s Minister for European Affairs, said: “France assumes the presidency of the EU and with Clement Beaune we want this subject to be a top priority.
“The French language must have a better place in the European institutions, but not just French, other languages as well.
“We cannot be glad to use only 500 words of English, of a globish, of an incomprehensible Esperanto.”
Mr Lemoyne’s remarks echoed those of Jordan Bardella, an MEP with the right-wing National Rally party, last year.
Mr Bardella pressed European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic on the subject, asking: “Where does the Commission stand on the question of keeping English as an official language of the European Union?”
Mr Sefcovic pointed out that English was “one of the official and working languages of the institutions of the Union”.
He added: “Furthermore, the Commission would like to note that English is one of the official languages of two Member States, namely Ireland and the Republic of Malta.”
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