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Languages in the European Union: The quest for equality and its cost

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  • Fidrmuc, Jan
  • Ginsburgh, Victor

Abstract

The European Union has recently expanded from 15 to 25 countries. In line with this enlargement, the list of official EU languages has grown from 11 to 20. Currently, the EU extends equal treatment to all member countries’ official languages by providing translations for documents and interpreting services for meetings and sessions of the European Parliament. This, however, is costly, especially when recognizing that many Europeans speak one of the procedural languages of the EU, English, French or German, either as their native language or as a foreign language. We compute disenfranchisement rates that would result from using only the three procedural languages for all EU business, and marginal costs per disenfranchised person associated with providing translations and interpreting into the remaining 17 languages. The marginal costs are shown to vary substantially across the different languages, raising important questions about the economic efficiency of equal treatment for all languages. We argue that an efficient solution would be to decentralize the provision of translations.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 51 (2007)
Issue (Month): 6 (August)
Pages: 1351-1369

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:51:y:2007:i:6:p:1351-1369

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  1. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2005. "Language Disenfranchisement in the European Union," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 273-286, 06.
  2. GINSBURGH, Victor & ORTUNO-ORTIN, Ignacio & WEBER, Shlomo, 2004. "Disenfranchisement in linguistically diverse societies. The case of the European Union," CORE Discussion Papers 2004080, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
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Cited by:
  1. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2007. "La connaissance des langues en Belgique," Reflets et perspectives de la vie économique, De Boeck Université, vol. 0(1), pages 31-43.
  2. Mejer, Malwina & van Pottelsberghe, Bruno, 2008. "The London Agreement and the Cost of Patenting in Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 7033, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Jan Fidrmuc & Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2009. "Voting on the choice of core languages in the European Union," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/99264, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. Alexander Muravyev & Oleksandr Talavera, 2010. "Can State Language Policies Distort Students' Demand for Higher Education?," University of East Anglia Applied and Financial Economics Working Paper Series 023, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
  5. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2013. "Culture, languages, and economics," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/152122, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  6. Piekkari, Rebecca & Welch, Denice Ellen & Welch, Lawrence Stephenson & Peltonen, Jukka-Pekka & Vesa, Tiina, 2013. "Translation behaviour: An exploratory study within a service multinational," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 771-783.

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