Posted by: Corri van de Stege | October 18, 2007

On Babel

According to Timothy Garton Ash in today’s Guardian, the heart of the problem for EU democracy is not Brussels but Babel, it is the fact that the EU has to deliberate and take decisions using some 23 different languages.  I’d always known there were a lot of languages across Europe, but had not realised there were as many as 23.  Interpreters really have to work hard when they are dealing with discussion groups that have three or four different languages, which is what happened recently when an attempt was made to find out what the people of Europe thought on different issues.  These were ordinary people, not men in grey suits and with briefcases, but taxi drivers, and sales reps etc., some 362 of them.
    Unlike in America, there is no ‘public deliberative democracy, no equivalent of national political controversies, no mass, continent-wide conversation…… except perhaps about football….’
    This really makes you wonder there is a European Parliament at all 

 And of course, lots of comments on the Guardian Book blog on Ann Enright’s winning of the Booker Prize for her book The Gathering.  I have not read this yet and it is variously described as ‘dull and safe’ to ‘brilliant prose and daring’ – so will have to read it to make up my own mind!


  1. If America is a melting pot that consists of social and cultural diversity, then Europe to me is the same pot but with lumps of ingredients that refuse to mix.

    I thought the implementation of the Euro was quite a victory for the continent.

  2. Matt: I like the refusal to mix! Euro, yes, but not used in England of course…

  3. Perhaps we should consider the European Union more like a European United Nations which little by little will replace the intercontinental United Nations. There are important achievements such as the migrations from one country to another, true that subject to time restrictions, but a step is a step.

    It is very difficult to muster 27 countries for a common interest decision so language or no language what really matters to me is that at least there are intentions to attain a unity.

    As they say Rome was not built in a day.

  4. Jose: I’m all in favour of a european union, but tell the british! We are still using £s here, not euros….:( bane of my life every time I cross the Channel. Happy to speak whatever language it takes.

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