Multilingualism Platform: The new European Commission and the European Parliament should be challenged on multilingualism policies

Mon 31 Mar 2014 03:02:00 PM EEST

Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism meeting in BrusselsThe EU institutions have received critique on their ability to address multilingualism in Europe. The topic was also discussed at the meeting of the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism in March. The platform will consider the issue while redefining its objectives.

The role of the EU institutions in promoting multilingualism was raised recently by the chair of the Education and Culture committee of the European Parliament, Mrs. Doris Pack, who admitted to the New York Times that the multilingualism policies are facing a period of indifference among the European institutions.

According to the article, Mrs. Pack laments both the Parliament and the Commission's indifference in achieving this goal. As for the Commission, she declared that this is not only due to the fact that it has no power over member state policies, but also because the policy had slipped down on the priorities list.

According to the European Commission’s spokesman for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, Mr. Dennis Abbott, European Union is a firm supporter of multilingualism and linguistic diversity.

“From 2007 to 2013, the commission spent around 50 million euros, or about 70 million dollars a year on language learning projects”, he stated to the New York Times.

Civil society concerned of the recognition of multilingualism

The concern of the EU institutions neglecting multilingualism policies was also raised at the meeting of the Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism held in Brussels March 14th. The participants discussed the latest development of the multilingualism policies in Europe. In particular, updates of the on-going process of the Language Benchmark and the open method of coordination were discussed.

One of the benchmarks is that by 2020, at least 50 per cent of 15-year-olds attain the level of independent user in their first foreign language. However, the meeting participants learned that the Commission is facing some difficulties in making this approved by the Council of the European Union.

During the meeting, the platform members also explained to the Commission their problems and doubts on the new European programmes, namely Erasmus+ and Creative Europe, and their implementation. The platform calls for more attention to multilingualism from the soon-to-be elected European Parliament and the Commission.

A new chair – a new impetus for the multilingualism platform?

During the meeting the Platform members also elected a new chair. After 3 and a half year of high commitment to the platform work, Mr. Uwe Mohr, Director of Language Department Goethe-Institut branch office Brussels, will leave Brussels to become the next Director of the Goethe-Institut Buenos Aires, as of 1 July 2014.

As his successor, the platform appointed Ms. Bessie Dendrinos, Professor of Sociology of Language and Foreign Language Education at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The new chair will be assisted by a steering committee composed by Seán Ó Riain (European Esperanto Union), Miguel Ángel Martín Ramos (European Academy of Yuste Foundation) and Cor van der Meer (Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning).

Due to the challenges exposed above, the platform has decided to seize the occasion of this change to reformulate its objectives. A survey will be launched to monitor the needs and proposals of each member. This will be instrumental to decide a new strategy of action. Once established, the platform will also start its promotion through a broader audience through a website and social media.

The Civil Society Platform on Multilingualism consists of civil society and European Commission representatives. Keeping the attention of the EU institutions on the topic and giving input on how to enhance multilingualism policies in the EU are the main aims of the platform.

Should you want to be involved in this more in depth, please contact the EAEA project officer, Francesca Operti at francesca.operti [at] eaea.org

Text and photo: Francesca Operti