With the decline of French language in EU institutions now accepted by most as irreversible, French lawmakers and officials have started pushing a more assertive approach, based on the promotion of multilingualism and influence rather than language issues only.
For years, French authorities have sought to contain the decline of their language in the European Union and other international bodies by requesting their citizens to only speak French at public meetings.
Former President Jacques Chirac once famously stormed out of a Brussels meeting when his compatriot Ernest-Antoine Seillière, then leader of EU business organisation UNICE, dared speaking English.
“I will express myself in English because it is the language of business,” Sellière said, causing the walkout by Chirac and two of his ministers.
These days now appear long gone.
In Brussels, French diplomats and policymakers have largely accepted – albeit reluctantly – the idea that French has lost its supremacy to English, which has become the main working language of EU institutions.
Defenders of the French language have of course not disappeared, like the aptly named ‘Défense de la Langue Française’ organisation (DLF), or the ‘Francophonie’, an international club of 77 countries which share French as a common language.