Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Merkel wants more German spoken in EU

Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:56am EDT
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By Noah Barkin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Angela Merkel's conservatives want to increase the use of German in Europe if they are re-elected in September, calling in their campaign program for the language to be treated on a par with English and French in top Brussels institutions.

"German is the most frequently spoken native language and one of three working languages of the European Union," a draft program from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), reads.

"We will push for a further strengthening of the German language in Europe. Our goal is that it is treated in the same way as English and French in the European Parliament, the (European) Commission and (European) Council."

English and French have been the dominant working languages of the EU in the past few decades, although French has declined since 2004 as the bloc expanded from 15 to 27 members, most from eastern Europe where English is a more common second language.

But there are differences depending on the institution.

German is rarely used day-to-day at the European Commission, but is heard frequently at the European Parliament, which has a German president and is made up of more Germans than members from any other state because of the country's large population.

It is not the first time Merkel's conservatives have called for a strengthening of German in Brussels: in their 2009 program they also complained that the language was not receiving equal treatment.

But given Germany's growing economic power within Europe since the outbreak of the euro zone debt crisis just over three years ago, the demand could rub other countries the wrong way.   Continued...

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin take part in a group photo at the G8 Summit, at Lough Erne, near Enniskillen, in Northern Ireland June 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman