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When Europe wakes up! (I)

Last Updated: 7 Jul 2017

In his latest book, Regis Debray notes that the passage from domination to hegemony occurs when “there is no place left for public debate”. We would also say that it happens when the most obvious manifestations of domination no longer attract attention, when our ability for analysis is corrupted, when the world becomes uncontrollable, when what exists bears the mark of Providence or Fate, when one starts enjoying some kind of sweet servitude, when thinking differently is simply politically incorrect.
In the light of this subject, we can re-interpret three topics, frequently dealt with in this letter.
1) Again, the consequences of the Brexit from the linguistic point of view: no special status for the English language on the sly!
If one sticks to the linguistic policy of the European Union unchange since 1958 (later called Council Regulation N°1/58), the official languages of the European Union are the official languages of the Member States, each State being en exits with its official language. And if this official language is titled to one language. Therefore, if a state exits from the EU, itnot the declared language of any other Member State, naturally, it stops automatically being an official language of the EU. No matter how we look at Council Regulation N°1/58, there is no way to interpret it differently. Of course, the UE may decide against this, but it must act unanimously. For instance, the UE may determine Esperanto as a EU official language, along with the official languages of each Member State, but it must act unanimously.
Everyone knows now that, when joining the EU, Ireland declared Irish, their first official language of the Republic, as their official language for the EU. And Malta chose Maltese. There are two ways to restore English as an official European language: either Ireland or Malta chooses English as their official language instead of Irish or Maltese respectively, or the European Council decides unanimously to keep English as an official European language in spite of the fact that English is no longer the official language of any member country.
Instead of that, the lawyers of the European Parliament, of the European Council and Commission thought up a stratagem which would consist in keeping English even though it is no one’s official language, and this without a council vote, implicating a twist of the meaning of Council Regulation N°1/58 to make it say that the European official language (for English only, of course) can be determined regardless of the official languages of the Member States. Unbeknownst of every one, English would thus be conferred a special status. This would be the first step toward the declaration of English as the sole official language for Europe, the other languages being reduced to the rank of national official languages. Therefore, messing up this way the European linguistic regulation could be done without a vote. On the other hand, applying the regulation would require a unanimous vote. In short, it would be a legal coup.
If it were only the language of a withdrawing Member State, the problem would soon be resolved. The reason for the issue is not the fact that the English language is the language of the UK, but the fact that English is the language of the United States and the language promoted by NATO. And there you have it!
2) The situation of languages in the education system is celebrated by the European Commission as if it were a victory. But in reality, over the past twenty years, we are treading water. The European Commission is pleased that the number of students learning more than one language is increasing, except that it increased between 2005 and 2010, and has been at a standstill and fell back to the level of 2009. Moreover, this increase concerns only middle school level and at high school level (lycée) this number has dropped, when it is the most important for languages because of continuity with higher education. That means that the second languages, i.e. all of them, except English are in a worse position today than ten years ago.
Does this situation benefit the population? Strangely enough, the proficiency in English does not seem to have improved significantly in the last ten years. In 2001 (the European Union comprising 15 member states ), 53% of European people declared knowing at least one European language beside their mother tong. In 2012 (the European Union comprising 27 member states), this number increased to 54% (+1%). But the number of persons able to speak two languages dropped from 26 to 25%. Spectacular, isn’t it? Had the new members states helped dropping the general level? Or else is heading towards English monolingualism harmful to all the languages, English included? Anyway, the relative improvement observed from 2005 to 2010 in the learning of second languages in middle schools is really important only if it goes on at le level of high school and then higher education, which is clearly not the case.
Which political interest can drive to embellishing a reality so discouraging, if it is not an implicit preference for the “all English” policy? For The disappearence of European languages and the pressure towards the single language hypocritically called lingua franca are mentally in the order of things. “There is no alternative”. One recommends “multilingualism and the development of languages”, but one is just pretending. The aim of hegemony is to bring the Europeans to communicating a minima by the mean of a lingua franca, therefore, one does the opposite of what one says.
In order to save the common cultural patrimony the European cultural convention of December 19, 1954, recommended that each member State develops the study of the languages, the history and the civilisation of the other States, and that each state endeavours to develop in the other states with their help the study of its language, its history and its civilisation. Can one believe that a common language is able to develop this common patrimony? Nonsense.
Reality is hegemonic and this is the reason why one prefers not to mention it. It is easy for Régis Debray to emphasize that the notion of Europe was more important during the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the 19th-century than now.
We must defend and promote German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and French of course, and other languages. English won’t suffer from that.

3) Globalization, Internet and lingua franca
One associates globalization, Internet and lingua franca, a word improperly used to refer to the language of the first world power, first military power (more than 50% of the world military expenditure, but between 16 and 25% per cent of the world GDP, according to the different ways of calculating), for the lingua franca which exist are never the language of a dominant power. Moreover, lingua franca have never facilitated cultural exchanges because they convey no culture, which is not the case of the English language which first conveys the culture of the United States.
15 years ago, 80% of the exchanges on the Internet were carried in English. Today, English represents no more than 22% of online contents. It gives you some food for thought.

4) Awakening
A profound despair wells up from Regis Debray's book which he does not totally communicate to the reader.
Hence the rather easy criticism of “declinism” applied to Europe as a whole and not only to France which would only add to a collection of works already well supplied. Yet, one must not take Regis Debray at face value or literally, and one must catch the lines he throws us. The last one, being the conclusion, is the most significant. Cultures die, when passing on stops. When in fact, passing on is done through the language.
“When life has taught us that we cannot cheat with its heritage for long, one doubts that a saffron robe and Buddhist sandals can make us other than what we haven’t chosen and we cannot cease to be. All things considered, we just take over. It’s hurtful, in one way. and comforting in another way, since it ensues from this that a continuation in the future is not impossible.
This is called passing on. It is a long adventure in which smile finally gets the better over the tears of a moment.”
It is not a question of being in conflict with the USA, Russia or China. We have but one demand: TO EXIST. ◄

To be followed in the next Letter.