Ever closer Union or Babylonian discord? The official-language problem in the European Union
AbstractThe policy of official multilingualism is one of the most important and fundamental principles of the Union. However, a large number of official languages imposes substantial financial, communication and legal costs. We address the merits of extensive multilingualism and formulate an analytical framework to determine the optimal number of official languages in the EU. First, we derive the sequence of optimal sets of languages which identifies the sets of languages that minimize aggregate linguistic disenfranchisement of the Union's citizens for any given number of languages. We then proceed by discussing the political-economy framework and feasibility of a potential linguistic reform in the EU under various voting rules, including the Nice Treaty, the proposed European Constitution and the Penrose law. We argue that a six-language regime would be a reasonable intermediate choice: a lower number of official languages results in excessive linguistic disenfranchisement whereas adding further languages increases the costs but brings only modest benefits. We also show that even though a linguistic reform reducing the number of official languages to six is unlikely to gain sufficient support at the present, this may change in the future since young people tend to be more proficient at speaking foreign languages.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) in its series CORE Discussion Papers with number 2007020.
Date of creation: 01 Mar 2007
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languages; disenfranchisement; European Union; linguistic standardization;
Other versions of this item:
- Fidrmuc, Jan & Ginsburgh, Victor & Weber, Shlomo, 2007. "Ever Closer Union or Babylonian Discord? The Official-language Problem in the European Union," CEPR Discussion Papers 6367, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Jan Fidrmuc & Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2007. "Ever Closer Union or Babylonian Discord? The Official-language Problem in the European Union," CEDI Discussion Paper Series 07-07, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
- D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
- O52 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe
- Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Social and Economic Stratification
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