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


  • Jan Fidrmuc
  • Victor Ginsburgh


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.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

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  • Jan Fidrmuc & Victor Ginsburgh, 2007. "Languages in the European Union: the quest for equality and its cost," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5253, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:ulb:ulbeco:2013/5253

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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, June.
    2. 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.
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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. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, 2013. "Linguistic diversity, standardization and disenfranchisement. Measurement and consequences," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/152436, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Jacques Melitz, 2014. "English as a Global Language," Working Papers 2014-22, Center for Research in Economics and Statistics.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Victor Ginsburgh & Shlomo Weber, "undated". "Multiligualism," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/174045, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    13. 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).
    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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