BundestagGermany is apparently stepping up its efforts to allow German to have more prominence in Brussels, according to this article from EUObserver.

Bundestag president Norbert Lammert wrote in a letter to European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso that the German parliament would refuse to debate EU documents that were not printed in German.

Now, in principle there is nothing really wrong with that – language parity is all very well and multi-lingualism needs to function. However, two points strike me as odd here. First, Germany has generally neglected its langauge throught the history of European integration. From the start in the 1950s there were as many German speakers in the EEC as French speakers, but French was the dominant language. To start to demand a better status for German now – when German speakers are a smaller percentage of the total EU population, and German’s role has been neglected for decades – seems like a case of too little, too late. You could of course see this as a sop to the French who are forever paranoid about the decline of their language in international circles.

Secondly, and more importantly, stamping their foot on the language issue is really the wrong approach for Germany. As anyone engaged in EU politics on a day-to-day basis will tell you, Germany already punches below its weight in EU decision making. Its policy coordination functions in Berlin are weak and hence ministries cannot coordinate policy as well as can be done in other EU countries. This leads to Germany being out-voted when Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) is used at least twice as often as the UK is outvoted. See this article from Euractiv for more details. If an additional blockage is introduced into this system – a delay until documents in German arrive – the system will become even less effective.

But I suppose getting EU policy coordination to work is a hard task, and saying some words to appease the French about language policy is easy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *