France fights EU moves to offer job application tests only in English

France is fighting for the role of the French language in the European Union (EU) and against applications for EU positions in English only.

A corresponding complaint before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is set to enter the decisive phase this Thursday with the oral hearing in Luxembourg.

France is criticising “unjustified unequal treatment on the basis of language” because some tests in certain areas are only conducted in English.

“The European Union’s duty to preserve the richness of its cultural and linguistic diversity and to ensure the protection and development of Europe’s cultural heritage has been violated,” the complaint says.

If such language practices were to be systematised for all application procedures, according to French diplomatic circles, English would be favoured as the only language in the long term.

This would run counter to the multilingualism to which they feel committed.

The issue is an emotional one for France.

“France’s problem is that we have gone from a situation in which French was the international language to one in which it no longer is,” political scientist Christian Lequesne told dpa.

There is also a certain nostalgia involved.

A lot of French was spoken when the European institutions were being set up, and almost all diplomats used to speak the language. In the meantime, this has declined massively.

“That is what is difficult for the French to bear,” said Lequesne.

A report published by Lequesne in 2020, titled Linguistic Diversity and the French Language in Europe, spoke of a decline in linguistic diversity in the EU institutions in favour of English.

According to the professor at the university Sciences Po Strasbourg, France’s attitude is also due to its view of language and politics.

“In the French view of power – and in this case – soft power, language counts.”

Ultimately, they believe that language is also used to make policy.

The battle is difficult to win, but if France doesn’t fight it, nobody will, he said.

Ultimately, it is also about the EU’s connection to its citizens – and they speak different languages.

A spokeswoman from the European Commission said the body does not comment on ongoing court proceedings; but it is endeavouring to promote multilingualism.

An important part of the selection procedures has always been carried out in all 24 official languages.

A judgement is not expected for several months. (dpa/NAN)