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English to be temporarily replaced by French as EU’s ‘working language’ in 2022

Prime minister Boris Johnson (right) and French president Emmanuel Macron watch a flypast of the Red Arrows and their French equivalent, La Patrouille de France from Horse Guards Parade in London during his visit to the UK - Credit: PA

Plans are being drawn up to replace English with French as the main “working language” of the EU during France’s presidency, with meetings and documents to become “French-first” next year. 

The French are set to take over the Council of the European Union presidency in 2022, with France planning to use its first presidency since Brexit to push its language in Brussels.

A senior French diplomat told Politico: “Even if we admit that English is a working language and it is commonly practiced, the basis to express oneself in French remains fully in place in the EU institutions.

“We must enrich it, and make it live again so that the French language truly regains ground, and above that, the taste and pride of multilingualism.”

If the plans go ahead meetings will be conducted in French rather than English during the six-month presidency.

“We will always ask the Commission to send us in French the letters it wishes to address to the French authorities, and if they fail to do so, we will wait for the French version before sending it,” the unnamed diplomat said.

It is the first French presidency of the council since Nicolas Sarkozy was president in 2008.

According to statistics issued by the Commission, at least 80% of Commission officials speak French as a first, second or third language. 

France has offered to fund free French language classes for diplomats who may wish to learn.