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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, bringing the number of official languages to 20. Currently, the EU extends equal treatment to all member countries’ official languages. This, however, is costly, especially since many Europeans speak one of the procedural languages, English, French or German, either as a native or a foreign language. We develop a simple theoretical model of linguistic-regime choice in a multilingual society and apply the model’s insights to the case of the EU: we compute disenfranchisement rates that would result from using only the three procedural languages for all EU business and then proceed to quantify the average cost per person and cost per disenfranchised person associated with providing translations and interpreting into the remaining languages. Both the disenfranchisement rates and 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," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5263, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  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. Fidrmuc, Jan & Ginsburgh, Victor & Weber, Shlomo, 2009. "Voting on the choice of core languages in the European Union," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 56-62, March.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2012. "Culture Languages and Economics," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2012-009, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  5. Muravyev, Alexander & Talavera, Oleksandr, 2010. "Can State Language Policies Distort Students' Demand for Higher Education?," IZA Discussion Papers 5411, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2007. "La connaissance des langues en Belgique," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5265, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

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