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Languages in the European Union: The Quest for Equality and its Cost

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  • Jan Fidrmuc

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  • Victor Ginsburgh

    ()

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan Fidrmuc & Victor Ginsburgh, 2006. "Languages in the European Union: The Quest for Equality and its Cost," CEDI Discussion Paper Series 06-15, Centre for Economic Development and Institutions(CEDI), Brunel University.
  • Handle: RePEc:edb:cedidp:06-15
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Victor Ginsburgh & Ignacio Ortuño-Ortín & Shlomo Weber, 2005. "Disenfranchisement In Linguistically Diverse Societies: The Case Of The European Union," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(4), pages 946-965, June.
    2. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2005. "Language Disenfranchisement in the European Union," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 273-286, June.
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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. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2012. "Culture Languages and Economics," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2012-009, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    3. Melitz, Jacques, 2014. "English as a global language," CEPR Discussion Papers 10102, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Muravyev, Alexander & Talavera, Oleksandr, 2016. "Can state language policies distort students’ demand for education?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 383-399.
    5. 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.
    6. Jan Fidrmuc, 2012. "The Economics of Multilingualism in the EU," Chapters,in: Research Handbook on the Economics of European Union Law, chapter 15 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Keith Acheson, 2011. "Globalization," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Cultural Economics, Second Edition, chapter 31 Edward Elgar Publishing.
      • Keith Acheson, 2003. "Globalization," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Cultural Economics, chapter 31 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, "undated". "Multiligualism," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/174045, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    9. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2013. "Linguistic diversity, standardization and disenfranchisement. Measurement and consequences," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/152436, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    10. Peter H. Egger & Andrea Lassmann, 2015. "The Causal Impact of Common Native Language on International Trade: Evidence from a Spatial Regression Discontinuity Design," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 0(584), pages 699-745, May.
    11. 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).
    12. 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.
    13. Malwina Mejer & Bruno Van Pottelsberghe, 2008. "The London Agreement and the Cost of Patenting in Europe," Working Papers ECARES 2008_032, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    14. Laura Onofri & Paulo A.L.D. Nunes & Jasone Cenoz & Durk Gorter, 2013. "Linguistic Diversity and Preferences: Econometric Evidence from European Cities," Journal of Economics and Econometrics, Economics and Econometrics Society, vol. 56(1), pages 39-60.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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