European identity, institutions and languages in the context of the enlargement
The debate on the European Enlargement to East and Central Europe and the negotiations with presently thirteen and possibly more countries later, raise a cultural problem at large, briefly summarized by two questions: what do we have in common? And what is the European identity? Practically it raises the problem of what language will we speak? The paper, written by an anthropologist, is based on extensive periods of observation of EU institutional life and several months of participation to the Commission working operations. It intends to clarify the linguistic situation of the EU, considered as a political entity, by making explicit the relations between three articulated layers that are: the realm of an official polity, the world of the institutions, and society at large. Within the general context of EU making, I distinguish the problematic of the official European languages policy, the use of languages that is made by European officials and their impact on policy making, and the delicate shifting from monolingualism to multilingualism in a social context. The EU destiny is to carry together two antagonistic perspectives such as Unity and Diversity, which constitute its motto. Diversity is at the core of the European identity and within the institutional process itself, bringing, in terms of language, interesting issues for improving communication, through translation, interpretation and personal attitudes. Progresses towards the forms of unity that represent the integration policies and the adoption of a single currency do not lead simply to a linguistic unification, nor to the adoption of English as a common vehicular language. European elite (usually trained in English) and people (located in their own multiple languages) do not live identical linguistic situations. What is at stake is the possibility for individuals to manage several languages for being really part of a European space, which does not limit itself to national and regional boundaries.
Published online: 16 August 2002
Abélès, M, Bellier, I., McDonald, M.
Abélès et Bellier
Bellier I. and Wilson Th.
Keohane R. O. et Hoffman S.
Mullen, P. F.
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