The European Union and Lesser Used Languages

Dónall Ó Riagáin

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This article examines the position of languages in the European Union. The Treaty of the European Union has very little to say about language; it simply lists in article 314 the twelve languages in which there are authentic versions of the Treaty. Article 21 states that EU citizens may write to the EU institutions in any of the languages, listed in article 314, and have an answer in the same language. The official and working languages are listed in Council Regulation No.1. In practical terms, French and English dominate as de facto working languages. More EU citizens speak German as mother-tongue than any other language while English is known by more than any other language. The European Parliament, in particular, has supported measures to conserve and develop lesser used (regional or minority) languages. The newly adopted Charter of Fundamental Rights states that the Union shall respect linguistic diversity. In a Union, set to enlarge substantially, can these seemingly conflicting realities be reconciled?

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Ó Riagáin, Dónall. The European Union and Lesser Used Languages. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2001, vol. 3, no.1, pp. 33-43. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574.

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