Ever Closer Union or Babylonian Discord?
AbstractExtensive multilingualism is one of the most important and fundamental principles of the European Union. However, a large number of official languages (currently 23) hinders communication and imposes substantial financial and legal costs. We address the merits of multilingualism and formulate an analytical framework to determine the optimal number of official languages in the EU. Using the results of a 2005 Eurobarometer survey of languages in the EU 27, we first derive 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 alternative voting rules. 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 limited 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 are more proficient at speaking foreign languages.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan in its series William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series with number wp887.
Date of creation: 01 Jul 2007
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: 724 E. University Ave, Wyly Hall 1st Flr, Ann Arbor MI 48109
Phone: 734 763-5020
Fax: 734 763 5850
Web page: http://www.wdi.umich.edu
More information through EDIRC
Languages; Disenfranchisement; European Union; Linguistic standardization;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- 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
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Bruno van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie & Didier François, 2009.
"The Cost Factor in Patent Systems,"
Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade,
Springer, vol. 9(4), pages 329-355, December.
- Bruno Van Pottelsberghe & Didier François, 2006. "The cost factor in patent systems," Working Papers CEB 06-002.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
- Bruno Van Pottelsberghe & Didier François, 2009. "The cost factor in patent systems," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/13422, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
- Francois, Didier & van Pottelsberghe, Bruno, 2006. "The Cost Factor in Patent Systems," CEPR Discussion Papers 5944, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Laurie Gendron).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.