- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002

PARIS By 2004, when a host of new states will join the European Union, Brussels will have become a "Tower of Babel," as the number of the union's official languages swells from 11 to 21, concerned officials and members of the European Parliament say.
An army of additional interpreters will be needed to translate among all the different tongues, and officials are already bracing themselves for a logistical nightmare.
"It's already complicated enough translating everything into 11 languages. It's going to be a real horror with 10 more," said one EU translator.
The changes will cost hundreds of millions of euros. The European Commission's annual policy strategy report foresees an extra cost of 20 million euros ($17.3 million) this year in preparations alone.
The commission has said that while maintaining the principle of multilingualism enshrined in the first regulation adopted by what was then the European Economic Community in 1958 it is hoping to keep a lid on costs by modernizing and ensuring better coordination among staffers.
Rather than trying to find language experts to translate from, say, Lithuanian to Portuguese to Slovak, documents are likely to go through a two-stage translation via a "relay" language English, French or German.
The commission's language service already employs about 1,500 translators who battle through 1.3 million pages of documents a year; 700 interpreters are needed each day to cover official meetings that number more than 11,000 each year. This alone costs more than 800 million euros ($692 million).
"Eurocrats" have estimated that each new language will require at least 110 new translators and 40 extra interpreters. Together with support staff, this will result in the addition of 2,500 civil servants to the 17,000 already working in Brussels.
A further 830 will have to be recruited in Strasbourg, France the parliament's other venue doubling its budget of 81 million euros ($70 million).
The European Union is currently negotiating with 13 states Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey over their prospective entry into the union. A decision on which countries will join is expected by the end of this year, but most are likely to be in the first wave of new entrants in 2004.
The arrival of new members from Eastern Europe is likely to see a growing use of English, much to the annoyance of the other big EU powers especially the French.
"The negotiations about enlargement were carried out while France was presiding over the European Union," said one European official. "But every one of the representatives from the countries wishing to enter carried out their discussions in English. … The French were furious."
The growing use of English prompted the Italian representative, Maria Campongrande, to write to Romano Prodi, the commission president, to protest what she described as the "stifling and constant evangelism of English."
"Even at the United Nations, where all the official languages are rigorously broadcast and protected, English does not benefit from such a preponderance," she complained.
About 60 percent of EU documents are now drafted in English, compared with less than 40 percent in French and 1 percent in German. Even as angry Francophones stride the corridors of European power, muttering about an Anglo-Saxon plot, a recent EU survey found that 56 percent of the population of EU member states spoke English as a first or second language.
A cost-cutting plan drawn up last year by Neil Kinnock, the commission vice president suggesting that EU documents be studied in English and only translated when they were adopted and published, was met with French accusations that he was attempting a linguistic "coup d'etat."

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