Languages of the European Union

Languages of the European Union
Languages of the European Union
Official language(s)
Semi-Official language(s)
Minority language(s)
Main immigrant language(s)
Main foreign language(s)
Sign language(s)

The languages of the European Union are languages used by people within the member states of the European Union. They include the twenty-three official languages of the European Union along with a range of others. The EU asserts that it is in favour of linguistic diversity and currently has a European Commissioner for Multilingualism, Androulla Vassiliou.

In the European Union, language policy is the responsibility of member states and EU does not have a common language policy; European Union institutions play a supporting role in this field, based on the principle of "subsidiarity", they promote a European dimension in the member states' language policies. The EU encourages all its citizens to be multilingual; specifically, it encourages them to be able to speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue.[citation needed] Though the EU has very limited influence in this area as the content of educational systems is the responsibility of individual member states, a number of EU funding programmes actively promote language learning and linguistic diversity.[4]

The most widely spoken mother tongue in the EU is German, while 51% of adults can understand English.

French is an official language common to the three cities that are political centres of the Union: Brussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France) and Luxembourg city (Luxembourg), while Catalan, Galician and Russian are the most widely used non-recognized languages in the EU.


Official EU languages

Sign in the entrance of the European Parliament building in Brussels written in all official languages used in the European Union.

As of 1 January 2007 (2007 -01-01), the official languages of the European Union, as stipulated in the latest amendment of Regulation No 1 determining the languages to be used by the European Economic Community of 1958, are:[5][6]

Language Official in (de jure or de facto) Since
Bulgarian  Bulgaria 2007
Czech  Czech Republic
Danish  Denmark
Dutch  Belgium
English  Ireland
 United Kingdom
Estonian  Estonia 2004
Finnish  Finland 1995
French  Belgium
German  Austria
Greek  Cyprus
Hungarian  Hungary
Irish  Ireland
 United Kingdom10
Italian  Italy
Latvian  Latvia 2004
Lithuanian  Lithuania 2004
Maltese  Malta 2004
Polish  Poland 2004
Portuguese  Portugal 1986
Romanian  Romania 2007
Slovak  Slovakia
 Czech Republic
Slovene  Slovenia
Spanish  Spain 1986
Swedish  Sweden

The number of member states exceeds the number of official languages, as several national languages are shared by two or more countries in the EU. Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, and Swedish are all official languages at the national level in multiple countries (see table above). In addition, Czech, Danish, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Slovak, and Slovene are official languages in multiple EU countries at the regional level.

Furthermore, not all national languages have been accorded the status of official EU languages. These include Luxembourgish, an official language of Luxembourg since 1984, and Turkish, an official language of Cyprus.

All languages of the EU are also working languages.[6] Documents which a member state or a person subject to the jurisdiction of a member state sends to institutions of the Community may be drafted in any one of the official languages selected by the sender. The reply is drafted in the same language. Regulations and other documents of general application are drafted in the twenty-three official languages. The Official Journal of the European Union is published in the twenty-three official languages.

Legislation and documents of major public importance or interest are produced in all twenty-three official languages, but that accounts for a minority of the institutions′ work. Other documents—e.g. communications with the national authorities, decisions addressed to particular individuals or entities and correspondence—are translated only into the languages needed. For internal purposes the EU institutions are allowed by law to choose their own language arrangements. The European Commission, for example, conducts its internal business in three languages, English, French, and German (sometimes called "procedural languages"), and goes fully multilingual only for public information and communication purposes. The European Parliament, on the other hand, has Members who need working documents in their own languages, so its document flow is fully multilingual from the outset.[7] Non-institutional EU bodies are not legally obliged to make language arrangement for all the 23 languages (Kik v. OHIM, Case C-361/01, 2003 ECJ I-8283).

According to the EU′s English language website,[8] the cost of maintaining the institutions′ policy of multilingualism—i.e. the cost of translation and interpretation—was €1123 million in 2005, which is 1% of the annual general budget of the EU, or €2.28 per person per year.


Although Maltese is an official language, the Council set up a transitional period of three years from May 1, 2004, during which the institutions were not obliged to draft all acts in Maltese.[9] It was agreed that the Council could extend this transitional period by an additional year, but decided not to.[10] All new acts of the institutions were required to be adopted and published in Maltese from April 30, 2007.


When Ireland joined the EEC (now the EU) in 1973, Irish was accorded "Treaty Language" status. This meant that the founding EU Treaty was restated in Irish. Irish was also listed in that Treaty and all subsequent EU Treaties as one of the authentic languages of the Treaties.[11] As a Treaty Language, Irish was an official procedural language of the European Court of Justice.[12] It was also possible to correspond in written Irish with the EU Institutions.

However, despite being the first official language of the Republic of Ireland and having been accorded minority-language status in the UK region of Northern Ireland, Irish was not made an official working language of the EU until January 1, 2007. On that date an EU Council Regulation making Irish an official working language of the EU came into effect.[13] This followed a unanimous decision on June 13, 2005, by EU foreign ministers that Irish would be made the 21st official language of the EU.[14] However, a derogation stipulates that not all documents have to be translated into Irish as is the case with the other official languages.[15][16]

The new Regulation means that legislation approved by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers will now be translated into Irish, and interpretation from Irish will be available at European Parliament plenary sessions and some Council meetings. The cost of translation, interpretation, publication and legal services involved in making Irish an official EU language is estimated at just under €3.5 million a year.[17] The derogation will be reviewed after four years and every five years thereafter. Irish is the only official language of the Union that is not the most widely spoken language in any Member State. According to the 2006 Irish census figures, there are 1.66 million people with some ability to speak Irish in Ireland out of a population of 4.24 million, though only 538,500 use Irish on a daily basis (counting those who use it mainly in the education system), and just over 72,000 use Irish as a daily language outside the education system.[18]

Language families

The vast majority of the official languages of the European Union belong to the Indo-European family, the three dominant subfamilies being the Germanic, Romance, and Slavic. Germanic languages are spoken in central and northern areas of the EU and include Danish, Dutch, English, German, and Swedish. Romance languages are spoken in western and southern regions and include French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish. The Slavic languages are to be found in the central and eastern regions and include Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Slovak, and Slovene. The Baltic languages, Latvian and Lithuanian; the Celtic language, Irish; and Greek are also Indo-European. Outside the Indo-European family, Estonian, Finnish, and Hungarian are Uralic languages while Maltese is the only Afroasiatic language with official status in the EU.


Nearly all official EU languages are written in the Latin alphabet. The exceptions are Greek, which is written with the Greek alphabet, and Bulgarian, which is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. The current design of euro banknotes has the word euro written in both the Latin and Greek alphabets; the Cyrillic spelling may be added if Bulgaria adopts the euro as its currency (see Linguistic issues concerning the euro).

Similar languages

Due to the similarity between Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin – to the extent that they are mutually intelligible across the region – it was proposed that only one joint language be accepted as an official EU language as opposed to four separate ones (as in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) in order to reduce translation costs. However in negotiations with Croatia it was accepted that Croatian would become a separate official EU language. This however may be reviewed as other Western Balkan states join.[19]

No official recognition

According to the Euromosaic study, some regional or minority languages spoken within the EU do not have official recognition at EU level. Some of them may have some official status within the member state and count many more speakers than some of the lesser-used official languages. The official languages of EU are in bold.

In the list, constructed languages or what member states deem as mere dialects of an official language of member states are not included. It should be noted that many of these alleged dialects are widely viewed by linguists as separate languages. These include Scots—the Germanic language descended from Old English, not the Celtic language known as Scots Gaelic—and several Romance languages spoken in Italy, such as Lombard, Ligurian, Piedmontese, Sardinian, Venetian, Neapolitan, and Sicilian.

Languages of Spain's autonomous regions

The Spanish governments have sought to give some official status in the EU for the languages of the Autonomous communities of Spain, Catalan, Galician and Basque. The 667th Council Meeting of the Council of the European Union in Luxembourg on June 13, 2005, decided to authorise limited use at EU level of languages recognized by member states other than the official working languages. The Council granted recognition to "languages other than the languages referred to in Council Regulation No 1/1958 whose status is recognized by the Constitution of a Member State on all or part of its territory or the use of which as a national language is authorized by law." The official use of such languages will be authorized on the basis of an administrative arrangement concluded between the Council and the requesting member state.[20]

Although Basque, Catalan, and Galician are not nation-wide official languages in Spain, as co-official languages in the respective regions—pursuant to Spanish constitution, among other documents—they are eligible to benefit from official use in EU institutions under the terms of the June 13, 2005, resolution of the Council of the European Union. The Spanish government has assented to the provisions in respect of these languages.

The status of Catalan, spoken by over 9 million EU citizens (1.8% of the total), has been the subject of particular debate. On December 11, 1990, the use of Catalan was the subject of a European Parliament Resolution (resolution A3-169/90 on languages in the [European] Community and the situation of Catalan [ OJ-C19, January 28, 1991]).

On November 16, 2005, the President Peter Straub of the Committee of the Regions signed an agreement with the Spanish Ambassador to the EU, Carlos Sagües Bastarreche, approving the use of Spanish regional languages in an EU institution for the first time in a meeting on that day, with interpretation provided by European Commission interpreters.[21][22]

On July 3, 2006, the European Parliament’s Bureau approved a proposal by the Spanish State to allow citizens to address the European Parliament in Basque, Catalan and Galician, two months after its initial rejection.[23][24]

On November 30, 2006, the European Ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros, and the Spanish ambassador in the EU, Carlos Bastarreche, signed an agreement in Brussels to allow Spanish citizens to address complaints to the European Ombudsman in Basque, Catalan, and Galician, all three co-official languages in Spain.[25] According to the agreement, a translation body, which will be set up and financed by the Spanish government, will be responsible for translating complaints submitted in these languages. In turn, it will translate the Ombudsman′s decisions from Spanish into the language of the complainant. Until such a body is established the agreement will not become effective.

Luxembourgish and Turkish

Luxembourgish (Luxembourg) and Turkish (Cyprus) are the only two national languages that are not official languages of the EU. Neither Luxembourg nor Cyprus have yet used the provision from the June 13, 2005, resolution provision to benefit from use in official EU institutions.

United Kingdom minority languages

In response to a written parliamentary question tabled following the June 13, 2005, resolution on official use of regional languages, the U.K. Minister for Europe, Douglas Alexander, stated on June 29, 2005, that "The Government have no current plans to make similar provisions for UK languages."[26]


The Romani (Roma, or formerly 'gypsy') people, numbering over two million people in the EU,[27] speak the Romani language, which is not official in any EU member state or polity. Moreover, Romani mass media and educational institution presences are near-negligible.


Though not an official language of the European Union, Russian is widely spoken in some of the new member states of EU that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. Russian is the native language of about 1.6 million Baltic Russians residing in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, as well as a sizeable community of about 3.5 million in Germany. Russian is also understood by majority of the ethnic Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians, since, as official language of the Soviet Union, it was a compulsory subject in those countries during the Soviet era. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the ability to speak Russian has been rapidly declining among younger ethnic Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians. It is the eighth-most spoken language in the EU and about 7% of all EU citizens speak or understand Russian to some extent.

Sami languages

In Finland, the Sami languages Northern Sami (ca. 2000 speakers), Skolt Sami (400) and Inari Sami (300) have limited local recognition in certain municipalities of Finnish Lapland. Furthermore, legistlation specifically concerning the Sami must be translated to these languages. Bilinguality with Finnish is universal, though.

Three different Sami languages are spoken in Sweden, but "Sami language" (undifferentiated) is recognized as an official minority languages of Sweden, and is co-official with Swedish in four municipalities in Norrbotten County (Swedish Lapland).


For several centuries, Latin was the lingua franca for administrative and scholarly purposes in a large part of what is now the European Union. Therefore, several institutions use Latin in their logos and domain names, instead of listing their names in all the official languages. For example, the Court of Justice has its website at The Court of Auditors uses Curia Rationum in its logo. The Council of the European Union has its website at and its logo showing Consilium. The motto of the European Union has a Latin version at an early stage of conception: “In varietate concordia”.


Esperanto has no official status in any member state. The European party Europe – Democracy – Esperanto seeks to establish the artificial language as an official second language in the EU.

Migrant languages

A wide variety of languages from other parts of the world are spoken by immigrant communities in EU countries. Turkish is spoken as a first language by an estimated 1% of the population in Belgium and the western part of Germany, and by 1% in the Netherlands. Other widely-used migrant languages include Berber which is spoken by about 1% of the population of both the Netherlands and Belgium and by many Berber migrants in Spain and Germany. Maghreb Arabic is spoken by migrants in France and Italy. Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, and Punjabi are spoken by immigrants from the Indian sub-continent in the United Kingdom. Balkan languages are spoken in many parts of the EU by migrants and refugees who have left the region as a result of the recent wars and unrest there.

There are large Chinese communities in France, the U.K., Spain, Italy, and other countries. Some countries have Chinatowns. Old and recent Chinese migrants speak various Chinese dialects, notably Cantonese and other southern Chinese tongues. However, Mandarin is becoming increasingly more prevalent due to the opening of the People's Republic of China.

There are many Russian-speaking immigrants in Germany,[28] France and United Kingdom.[citation needed]

Many immigrant communities in the EU have been in place for several generations now and their members are bilingual, at ease both in the local language and in that of their community. [2]


Languages of the European Union EU-251
Language Countries* As mother tongue (percentage of EU population) As language other than mother tongue (percentage of EU population) Percentage of EU population speaking language
English United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta 13% 38% 51%
German Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, France, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary 18% 14% 32%
French France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy 12% 14% 26%
Italian Italy, Slovenia, France and Malta 13% 3% 16%
Spanish Spain 9% 6% 15%
Polish Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia 9% 1% 10%
Russian Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Greece 1% 6% 7%
Dutch Netherlands, Belgium and France 5% 1% 6%
Swedish Sweden and Finland 2% 1% 3%
Greek Greece, Cyprus and Italy 3% 0% 3%
Czech Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia 2% 1% 3%
Hungarian Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Austria 2% 0% 2%
Portuguese Portugal 2% 0% 2%
Slovak Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary 1% 1% 2%
Catalan Spain, France and Italy 1% 1% 2%

* Countries where the language is spoken as mother tongue, including historical minorities, excluding communities of recent migration.
1Source: Data for EU25, published before 2007 enlargement of the European Union.

After January 1, 2007, Romanian and Bulgarian languages ​​also became language of the European Union with a weighting of 5% and 2%

At 18% of the total number of speakers, German is the most widely spoken mother tongue, while English is the most widely spoken language at 51%. 100% of Hungarians, 100% of Portuguese, and 99.5% of Greeks speak their state language as their mother tongue.

The knowledge of foreign languages varies considerably in the specific countries, as the table below shows. The five most spoken second or foreign languages in the EU are English, German, French, Russian, and Spanish, followed by Italian. In the table, boxes coloured light blue mean that the language is an official language of the country, while the main language spoken in the country is coloured dark blue.

Knowledge of English. (Note that the scale used differs from other maps.)
Knowledge of German.
Knowledge of French (Note that around 40% of Belgium's population are native French speakers.)
Knowledge of Spanish
Knowledge of Italian
Knowledge of Russian (Note that 37.5% of Latvia's population[29] and about 30% of Estonia's population are native Russian speakers.)
Knowledge of languages to a conversational level other than as a mother tongue
European Union(EU27)
English German French Spanish Italian Russian Polish
 Austria 58% 4% 10% 4% 8% 2% 0%
 Belgium 59% 27% 48%1 6% 3% 0% 0%
 Bulgaria 23% 12% 9% 6% 1% 35% 0%
 Cyprus 76% 5% 12% 2% 1% 2% 0%
 Czech Republic 24% 28% 2% 0% 1% 20% 3%
 Denmark 86% 58% 12% 5% 1% 1% 0%
 Estonia 46% 22% 1% 0% 0% 66%2 0%
 Finland 63% 18% 3% 2% 1% 2% 0%
 France 36% 8% 6% 13% 5% 0% 0%
 Germany 56% 9% 15% 4% 3% 7% 1%
 Greece 48% 9% 8% 1% 1% 3% 0%
 Hungary 23% 25% 2% 1% 2% 8% 0%
 Ireland 5% 7% 20% 4% 1% 1% 1%
 Italy 29% 5% 14% 4% 1% 0% 0%
 Latvia 39% 14% 2% 1% 0% 70%3 2%
 Lithuania 32% 19% 1% 0% 0% 80% 15%
 Luxembourg 60% 88% 90% 1% 5% 0% 0%
 Malta 88% 3% 17% 3% 66% 0% 0%
 Netherlands 87% 70% 29% 5% 1% 0% 0%
 Poland 29% 19% 3% 1% 1% 26% 0%
 Portugal 32% 3% 24% 9% 1% 0% 0%
 Romania 29% 6% 24% 3% 4% 0% 0%
 Slovakia 32% 32% 2% 1% 1% 29% 4%
 Slovenia 57% 50% 4% 2% 15% 2% 0%
 Spain 27% 2% 12% 10% 2% 1% 0%
 Sweden 89% 30% 11% 6% 2% 1% 1%
 United Kingdom 7% 9% 23% 8% 2% 1% 1%
 Croatia* 49% 34% 4% 2% 14% 4% 0%
 Turkey* 17% 4% 3% 0% 0% 1% 0%

* Candidate country      Source: [3]
1 40% native speakers, totalling 88%.
2 About 30 % native speakers, totalling more than 90%
3 More than 30 % native speakers, totalling close to 100%

56% of citizens in the EU member states are able to hold a conversation in one language apart from their mother tongue. This is nine points higher than reported in 2001 among the 15 member states at the time [4]. 28% of the respondents state that they speak two foreign languages well enough to have a conversation. Almost half of the respondents—44%—do not know any other language than their mother tongue. Approximately 1 in 5 Europeans can be described as an active language learner (i.e., someone who has recently improved his/her language skills or intends to do so over the following 12 months).

English remains by far the most widely spoken foreign language throughout Europe. 95% of students in the EU study English at secondary level[30] and 38% of EU citizens state that they have sufficient skills in English to have a conversation (excluding citizens of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the two English-speaking countries). 28% of Europeans indicate that they know either French (14%) or German (14%), along with their mother tongue. French is most commonly studied and used in southern Europe, especially in Mediterranean countries, in Germany, Portugal, Romania, the U.K., and Ireland. German, on the other hand, is commonly studied and used in the Benelux countries, in Scandinavia, and in the newer EU member states. Spanish is most commonly studied in France, Italy, Luxembourg, and Portugal. In 19 out of 29 countries polled, English is the most widely known language apart from the mother tongue, this being particularly the case in Sweden (89%), Malta (88%); the Netherlands (87%); and Denmark (86%). 77% of EU citizens believe that children should learn English. English was considered the number one language to learn in all countries where the research was conducted except for the United Kingdom, Ireland and Luxembourg. English, either as a mother tongue or as a second/foreign language, is spoken by 51% of EU citizens, followed by German with 32% and French with 26%.

The EU enlargements since 1990 have largely favoured the position of German relative to French. The only exceptions are Romania, Cyprus and Malta.
Red: Countries where German is more known than French.
Blue: Countries where French is more known than German.
Darker colours: Native countries.
Figure: year of accession.
C: Candidate country.

With the enlargement of the European Union, the balance between French and German is slowly changing. More citizens in the new member states speak German (23% compared with 12% in the EU15) while fewer speak French or Spanish (3% and 1% respectively compared with 16% and 7% among the EU15 group). A notable exception is Romania, where 24% of the population speaks French as a foreign language compared to 6% who speak German as a foreign language. At the same time, the balance is being changed in the opposite direction by growth of the French-speaking population and decrease of the German-speaking population.[citation needed]

Language skills are unevenly distributed both over the geographical area of Europe and over sociodemographic groups. Reasonably good language competences are perceived in relatively small member states with several state languages, lesser used native languages or "language exchange" with neighbouring countries. This is the case in Luxembourg, where 92% speak at least two languages. Those who live in southern European countries or countries where one of the major European languages is a state language have a lower likelihood of speaking multiple foreign languages. Only 5% of Turkish, 13% of Irish, 16% of Italians, 17% of Spanish and 18% from the U.K. speak at least two languages apart from their mother tongue.

Free language lessons (26%), flexible language courses that suit one’s schedule (18%), and opportunities to learn languages in a country where it is spoken natively (17%) are cited as the main incentives encouraging language learning. Group lessons with a teacher (20%), language lessons at school (18%), “one-to-one” lessons with a teacher, and long or frequent visits to a country where the language is spoken are considered to be the most suitable ways to learn languages.[by whom?]

Working languages

While documents for and communication with citizens are in every official EU language as a right, day-to-day work in the European Commission is based around its three working languages: English, French, and German. Of these English is used most often. The use of English vs. French depends a lot on the unit or directorate. German is rarely used as a true working language in the Commission. Only a few of the Commissioners use a non-English tongue as their working language. This disappoints many in France[citation needed], and Kristalina Georgieva, who is from Bulgaria, gained a round of applause when she told Parliament she would learn French while in the Commission.[31] Parliament itself translates its proceedings into all official languages, although the actual spoken language of MEPs is sometimes English, so that fellow MEPs can understand them better than if they had the delayed translation. Committee meetings also often default to the language most understood by those attending instead of listening to the translation.


The European Union ability for legislative acts and other initiatives on language policy is based legally in the provisions in the Treaties of the European Union. In the EU, language policy is the responsibility of member states and the European Union does not have a common "language policy." Based on the principle of "subsidiarity," European Union institutions play a supporting role in this field, promoting cooperation between the member states and promoting the European dimension in the member states language policies, particularly through the teaching and dissemination of the languages of the member states (Article 149.2).[32][33] The rules governing the languages of the institutions of the Community shall, without prejudice to the provisions contained in the Statute of the Court of Justice, be determined by the Council, acting unanimously (Article 290). All languages, in which was originally drawn up or was translated due to enlargement, are legally equally authentic. Every citizen of the Union may write to any of the EU institutions or bodies in one of the these languages and have an answer in the same language (Article 314).

In the Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding since its inclusion in the Lisbon Treaty, the EU declares that it respects linguistic diversity (Article 22) and prohibits discrimination on grounds of language (Article 21). Respect for linguistic diversity is a fundamental value of the European Union, in the same way as respect for the person, openness towards other cultures, and tolerance and acceptance of other people.


Interpretation booths in the debating chamber of the European Parliament (Brussels).

Beginning with the Lingua programme in 1990, the European Union invests more than €30 million a year (out of a €120 billion EU budget) promoting language learning through the Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci programmes in bursaries to enable language teachers to be trained abroad, placing foreign language assistants in schools, funding class exchanges to motivate pupils to learn languages, creating new language courses on CDs and the Internet, and projects that raise awareness of the benefits of language learning.

Through strategic studies, the Commission promotes debate, innovation, and the exchange of good practice. In addition, the mainstream actions of Community programmes which encourage mobility and transnational partnerships motivate participants to learn languages.

Youth exchanges, town twinning projects, and the European Voluntary Service also promote multilingualism. Since 1997, the Culture 2000 programme has financed the translation of around 2,000 literary works from and into European languages.

The new programmes proposed for implementation for the financial perspective 2007-2013 (Culture 2007, Youth in Action, and Lifelong Learning) will continue and develop this kind of support.

In addition, the EU provides the main financial support to the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages, a non-governmental organization which represents the interests of the over 40 million citizens who belong to a regional and minority language community, and for the Mercator networks of universities active in research on lesser-used languages in Europe. Following a request from the European Parliament, the Commission in 2004 launched a feasibility study on the possible creation of a new EU agency, the "European Agency for Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity." The study concludes that there are unmet needs in this field, and proposes two options: creating an agency or setting up a European network of "Language Diversity Centres." The Commission believes that a network would be the most appropriate next step and, where possible, should build on existing structures; it will examine the possibility of financing it on a multi-annual basis through the proposed Lifelong Learning programme. Another interesting step would be to translate important public websites, such as the one of the European Central Bank, or Frontex web site also, in at least one other language than English.

Although not an EU treaty, most EU member states have ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[34]

To encourage language learning, the EU supported the Council of Europe initiatives for European Year of Languages 2001 and the annual celebration of European Day of Languages on September 26.

To encourage the member states to cooperate and to disseminate best practice the Commission issued a Communication on July 24, 2003, on Promoting Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity: an Action Plan 2004 - 2006 (summary) and a Communication on November 22, 2005, on A New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism (summary).

From November 22, 2004, the European Commissioner for Education and Culture portfolio included an explicit reference to languages and became European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism with Ján Figeľ at the post. From 2007 until 2010, the European Commission had a special portfolio on languages, European Commissioner for Multilingualism. The post was held by Leonard Orban. Since 2010, the portfolio was merged with education and culture, again.

EU devotes a specialised subsite of its "Europa" portal to languages, the EUROPA Languages portal.


1Co-official status in the municipalities in which the size of the minority population meets the legal threshold of 20%.


3Region of Aosta Valley

4Region of South Jutland

5Province of South Tyrol

6Provinces of Apulia and Reggio Calabria

7Region of Burgenland

8Can be used in local administration along with Romanian in every municipality, city or commune that have a population that is more than 20% Hungarian.

9Prekmurje region.[35]

10Northern Ireland

11Slovenian Istria

12Regions of Carinthia and Styria

13Provinces of Trieste, Gorizia, and Udine

14Official for the state of Finland and in coastal municipalities of the southern coast and southern Ostrobothnia.

See also


  1. ^ Romanian law no. 282/2007
  2. ^ Council of Europe publishes report on minority languages in Spain Monday 15 December 2008
    by Conseil de l’Europe
    "The Spanish authorities are also encouraged to clarify the status of Galician in Castile and León
    Portuguese in the town of Olivenza
    Berber in the Autonomous City of Melilla and Arabic in the Autonomous City of Ceuta
    and take appropriate steps to protect these languages in co-operation with the speakers."
  3. ^ European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
  4. ^ EUROPA - Education and Training - Action Plan Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity
  5. ^ "Consolidated version of Regulation No 1 determining the languages to be used by the European Economic Community". Europa. European Union. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Languages of Europe - Official EU languages". European Commission. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  7. ^ Europa:Languages and Europe. FAQ: Is every document generated by the EU translated into all the official languages?, Europa portal. Retrieved on 6 February 2007.
  8. ^ Europa:Languages and Europe. FAQ: What does the EU's policy of multilingualism cost?, Europa portal. Retrieved on 6 February 2007.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Taoiseach Website Press Release dated 1 January 2007
  12. ^ Deirdre Fottrell, Bill Bowring - 1999 Minority and Group Rights in the New Millennium.
  13. ^ See: Council Regulation (EC) No 920/2005.]
  14. ^ Decision made at 667th Meeting of the Council of the European Union, Luxembourg.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ EU to hire 30 Irish translators at cost of €3.5 million
  18. ^
  19. ^ Palokaj, Augistin (24 November 2010) Croatian to become 24th EU language,
  20. ^
  21. ^ EUROPA-Languages-News-Spanish regional languages used for the first time
  22. ^
  23. ^ MERCATOR :: News
  24. ^ Catalan government welcomes European Parliament language move
  25. ^ European Ombudsman Press Release No. 19/2006 30.11.2006
  26. ^ House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 29 Jun 2005 (pt 13)
  27. ^ Ethnologue
  28. ^ [1] 3,5 mill uses the Russian language in Germany.
  29. ^ 2000 census results — choose "Results of Population Census Year 2000, in short" and "Iedzīvotāju dzimtā valoda un citu valodu prasme"(Latvian)
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Consolidated version of the Treaty establishing the European Community, Articles 149 to 150, Official Journal C 321E of 29 December 2006. Retrieved on February 1, 2007.
  33. ^ European Parliament Fact Sheets: 4.16.3. Language policy, European Parliament website. Retrieved on February 3, 2007.
  34. ^ European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages CETS No.: 148
  35. ^

Further reading

External links

Official EU webpages

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