Stupid statement of the week: Danuta Hübner

Who is she? The head of the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, and honest to goodness, she really did say this

“We have a regulation … where every EU country has the right to notify one official language,” Hübner said. “The Irish have notified Gaelic, and the Maltese have notified Maltese, so you have only the U.K. notifying English.”

“If we don’t have the U.K., we don’t have English,” Hübner said.

Hmmmmm, yeah, that’ll work… 

  • Reader

    Are you hoping that the EU will keep English as one of its official languages, or not? Will you continue to cave in to US hegemony after the Brits are no longer in place as catspaws of the US?
    I suppose the French and Germans will make the final decision.

  • hgreen

    She sounds evil. I’m sure the Brexit dental checkers have already added her to their Gary Lineker, Lilly Allen hate list.

  • chrisjones2

    I think yoiu are unfair MIckj.

    She is probably a rational human being but this is the system she works in. A never never land where rules and processes must be everything and where rationality is bansished. That is why it is doomed

  • chrisjones2

    Arent you concerned that, given we can take a limited number of children, that we know there are many single children in the camps from age 9 up, and some of the female children are subject to the vilest abuse, we should be making sure that we take the most vulnerable? And that probabaly means the youngest to whom we can offer the most hep and the best future?

    Why was there not a single female in the first batch?

  • Zig70

    Why French and not German? Kind of thing that starts a war. Still would be amusing to see English demoted.

  • eamoncorbett

    In the Islamic tradition the male takes prominence , it is surely up to the French and British authorities to create an equal balance when dealing with these vulnerable children.

  • Muiris

    There was a suggestion, after Denmark, UK, and RoI joined that the then EEC should have two official languages only, French & English.

    It was a Danish suggestion, as I recall, and as with all matters political,the devil was in the detail, so the French would have to use English, and the English (British) use French.

    The equivelant now, might I suggest, would be that English becomes the only official language of the EU.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    French was until quite recently the “language of diplomacy”, i.e., the language through which international relations were discussed. It still retains something of this glamour.

  • Teddybear

    Cue backward Irish nationalists being gleeful about attempts to relegate the rich and international language of English in favour of obscurant folk languages such as Irish which is only kept alive through the artificial life support symptoms of politically driven bun schoils and governments propping up.

  • chrisjones2

    I agree. We didnt. In my view that was a grave error and we should not have unlimited trust in the French to do anything – they will have their own agenda

  • chrisjones2

    Well French was once a common diplomatic language but it atrophied after the last 80 years and its hard to see a renaissance

  • hgreen

    Go on then tell us all why? My guess though is that again you are acting as an apologist for the nasty racist and xenophobic behaviour that has emerged all over England as a result of the referendum.

  • Old Mortality

    Dropping English would be one happy consequence of Brexit for the EU. German and French should be the two official languages and let the Anglophile, or more likely Yankophile, Eastern Europeans and Irish get used to being properly European.

  • Old Mortality

    French has certainly not atrophied. It has been on the defensive against the onslaught of American which has been mightily reinforced by the internet.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Comedy … the EU is its own worst enemy sometimes. Otherworldly stuff.

  • Reader

    Mick, that was horribly unfair. The EU is the sort of place that does have “official languages” and “working languages”, and it is someone’s job to make sure that translators and translations are available from and to those languages. An expensive business, I’m sure you will agree.
    What budget should be set aside for translating documents and speeches to English once that is no longer an official and/or working language? Danuta Hübner took the sensible precaution of alerting everyone to the notion that unless steps are taken, there’s an automatic change coming through the system.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Mick, legally speaking she could be right.

  • Declan Doyle

    Hundreds of thousands of people west of the Shannon who speak Irish might disagree

  • Kevin Breslin

    The Europeans have their own Atlantic relationship and managed to gain it without being afraid of learning new languages themselves.

    When it comes down to things I think given the other 24 other continental nations and ROI have more MEPs, and more people, a Franco-German alliance could be outvoted and outplayed.

  • John Collins

    Excuse me Declan. I live in Carlow, a town on the verge of the Pale, and attend an Irish speaking circle which has at least forty members, who are all past middle age and all speak the Teanga fluently.
    It is not only people West of the Shannon who speak whoi love and speak the ancient Tongue.

  • Roger

    Yes, one rarely hears English these days in much of IRL.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


  • mickfealty

    Up to a point Lord Copper.

  • mickfealty

    It won’t happen Reader. Unless they really are trying to get Ireland to follow the UK out of the door?

  • Jollyraj

    Largely academic since it’s unlikely to happen – though very telling that our Irish nationalist friends would actually favour the only language most of them actually speak being knocked off the perch as the lingua franca of Europe.

  • Jollyraj

    “In the Islamic tradition the male takes prominence”

    Indeed. Not something we really want taking root here.

  • Declan Doyle

    Sorry John i didnt mean to be disrespectful. Indeed, there is a very vibrant and growing Irish Speaking community pocketed all over the country. Maith an Fear.

  • Declan Doyle

    Knowing no other bearla.

  • Declan Doyle

    Plenty of Hiberno English or maybe you do not understand the varied accents all over Ireland. Derry and South Antrim I think are the nicest of them all.

  • chrisjones2

    ….its just that people naturally tend towards the best

  • terence patrick hewett

    Oh yes: in the great grand world of hot metal it was the compositors who corrected the spelling of the journo: must read Terry Paratchett The Truth again.

    Happy days.


  • chrisjones2

    Look please read what I wrote. Before WW II French was one of the major common languages used by diplomats around the world. It isnt really in that class anymore in diplomatic communication

    The French are fighting gamely to protect French generally against Americanisation – they have to becasue French people find English so much more useful and easy to learn / use. In the end critcial mass will win andin say 100 years it will come down to Mandarin, English, Hindu and possibly Spanish or Portugese

  • Surely they should make Mandarin Chinese the official language, as it is the language of our masters.

  • terence patrick hewett

    There’s a big world out there : Hellzapoppin:

    All gods children got

    Maybe a duet is the answer:

  • Lionel Hutz

    I have to agree reader. someone pointing out a technical irregularity is hardly being stupid

  • the rich get richer

    And whats wrong with de Latin…..
    They might as well be talking Latin coz they don’t know how to speak with an honest tongue……

  • Brian Walker

    To name drop just a bit… Enda told me recently how odd it would be that in a few years only he (he was making an assumption here) and the Maltese pm would be the champions of English in the EU. .. (The status of Irish in the Parliament didn’t seem any compensation).

  • Abucs

    Just you wait for a Gaelic comeback Chris. lol

  • Abucs

    Don’t worry, the Germans have it all worked out.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    This is one of the many rumours sweeping Brussels these days, but it’s not true, and Hübner (who is a former European Commissioner and previously worked for the UN) is smart enough that she should have known better than to give it further airing.

    There is no automaticity between having an official language in an EU state, and it being an official EU language. Irish did not become an official EU language until 2007. Turkish is an official language in Cyprus, but not of the EU.

    The list of official languages is a Council decision, and unless and until the unlikely event that one member state actively proposes to take English off the list, and the even more unlikely event that the other countries vote to do so, English will stay on.

    (English is also the official working language of the European Central Bank, even though less than 2% of the Eurozone’s population speaks it as a native language.)

  • hotdogx

    As some of you on here know I live & work in France i speak fluent French & I have also Irish & some German.
    In my opinion English will stay the majority common language across Europe, for a number of simple reasons.
    The first reason is of course simplicity, the English language is easy to learn & use.
    (As the joke here goes it has to be a simple language otherwise the English wouldn’t be able to talk to each other)

    The second reason is that English has been established as a common world language, it would be difficult to change it now.

    English is the number one technology language.

    Ireland stands to benefit in a huge way from the fact that we will be the only fully English speaking country in Europe with a stable safe mordern social society, fully free democratic republic, we may stand to be come the Eurozone Switzerland of Europe. The breadbasket of Europe while just next door we have NI the basket case of Europe!

  • tmitch57

    At Versailles in 1919 English became the working language of the Big Four because Prime Minister Orlando of Italy spoke English and not French. Since then English has been the main language and French has been a secondary language alongside German, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and Spanish.

  • Bill Chapman

    I don’t mind at all if anyone chooses to learn English or any other language or even Franglais, but I would like to argue the case for wider use of Esperanto. It is a planned language which belongs to no one country or group of states.

    Esperanto continues to attract new learners and speakers in Brussels and elsewhere. Over 500,000 people have signed on for the Duolingo Esperanto course in its first year.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Will they not keep it for Scotland?

  • Reader

    I also think that some fudge will be found. And that Danuta has begun the process – someone had to.
    However, if Irish MEPs started receiving translated documents in Irish, who could they blame but themselves?

  • Reader

    Well, after Scotland gets in, they might choose Scottish or Scots Gaelic as their official language instead.
    That would be fun.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    One reason why French (in high register) is useful for diplomacy is that its precision avoids ambiguity and misunderstanding while leaving room for tact. Btw there’s no such language as ‘Hindu’.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    British diplomats were learning French well into the 1950s, as I seem to remember. Certainly, pragmatism dictated that, with the development of U.S. hegemony after 1919 English became the language of commercial business and become the default the norm for diplomatic business also. But I remember how, for most of the older people I mixed with in the 1960s/70s during my film career in London, French remained the language of culture, and France has retained its clear world lead in philosophy, for one thing. No, not a “secondary” language in some very important areas.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    TB, have you ever learnt Irish? Most of those who have not studied, say the pre-Socratic philosophers, usually refrain from pontificating about their contribution to world culture.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Interestingly, Terry Pratchett’s first publisher was tehe excellent Colin Smythe whose work to keep important Irish revival work in print since the 1960s was given an important financial underpinning by his faith in an unknown SiFi/fantasy writer. This links to his “Ulster Editions”…..

  • Nicholas Whyte

    No she isn’t – see my reply above.

  • Dullahan

    It is rather unfair as the statement was in response to a specific question (on June 27 so I’m not sure where the “this week” comes from) in which Hübner acknowledged the importance of English in her reply stating – “It’s actually the dominating language.”

    The European Commission has three working languages, English, French and German. From the EU itself: “To save time and money, all the preparatory documents are usually not translated into all the languages. The European Commission uses English, French as German as its working languages.”

    Brexit need not affect that – so in this case the stupidity isn’t coming from Hübner.

  • Kevin Breslin

    No one is suggesting people are going to get punished for using English in EU institutions, but there is some account that English will lose official status, or that arguably one of Irish and Maltese will lose official status and get relegated to minority language status to ensure that English remains as an official text.

    So there may be a legal issue based on pedantic letter of the law interpretation rather than best practice. This issue could be based on whether the Irish and Maltese could still piggyback on the UK’s main designated language at no expense of their own native languages.

    Perhaps a third nation like Austria may adopt English as the main language given German is already secured. Maybe they may adopt Alemannic or Austro-Bavarian themselves as an alternative to “German German”

    Turkish to my recollection isn’t used by the Cypriot delegation in the European Union, I do not think any non-EU language is.

  • Kevin Breslin


  • Kevin Breslin

    It could be just to annoy the British who had even used Welsh during World War 1 to confuse German spies.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Loving it … Rules and Process … Irrational … Being without Rules and Process … Rational.

    So basically

    Getting drunk and crashing your car into a crowd of children is rational because all rules and process is thrown to the side.

    A medical process to save the children is irrational because there is an anal retentive orthodoxy and precision to the way of doing things.

    Or alternatively this frustration with Selbstkontrolle und Selbstdisziplin is one of the real reasons why the UK has become a hard work, long hours, low productivity environment?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Latin being the previous “lingua franca” before it of course.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    there is some account that English will lose official status

    This account is simply wrong. As noted above there is no automaticity between a language being official in an EU state and becoming an official EU language. Changes to the list of official languages have to be proposed by a member state and approved by the rest. I can’t see any member state seriously proposing to remove English as an official language, and if that happened I can’t see the rest agreeing.

    Turkish to my recollection isn’t used by the Cypriot delegation in the European Union, I do not think any non-EU language is.

    Turkish is an official language of Cyprus. Luxembourgish is an official language of Luxembourg. Both Cyprus and Luxembourg are in the EU. Neither Turkish nor Luxembourgish is an official EU language. There is no automaticity between a language being official in an EU state and becoming an official EU language

  • Kevin Breslin

    Isn’t English on by “automaticity” simply because of UK membership, and ratcheting back to a non-UK EU would mean that it off again?

    Doesn’t this actually affirm the contradiction arguement, that like Luxembourgish and Turkish, there is no automaticity for English being an official language or even a working language of the EU simply because its an official language of Malta and the Republic of Ireland.

    Turkish, Luxembourgish, Basque, Frisian, Sorbian, Russian or whatever are merely examples of Languages that are Not official EU languages. This tells us nothing whatsoever about the status of languages declared by a nation state when said nation state leaves the organisation.

    I feel you are merely affirming the consequent

    A better precedence would be would English have official status in the European Free Trade Association, though that is a completely different set of laws.

    English is a working language of EFTA, but not an “official” one.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘….we may stand to be come the Eurozone Switzerland of Europe.’
    An awful lot of cleaning up would be needed first. Could you ever imagine coming across anywhere as seedy as Waterford in Switzerland.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    Isn’t English on by “automaticity” simply because of UK membership

    No. English is on because two member states (the UK and Ireland) asked to put it on in 1973. One of those member states leaving does not change that. So the rest of the argument falls.

    (It’s also a complete myth that each member state gets to choose only one language.)

    Turkish, Luxembourgish, Basque, Frisian, Sorbian, Russian or whatever are merely examples of Languages that are Not official EU languages

    No. There’s a big difference between Turkish and Luxembourgish, which are official languages of EU member states but not languages of the EU; Basque, Frisian and Sorbian, which are languages used officially in some parts of some EU member states; and Russian, which is not an official language anywhere in the EU as far as I know.

    This tells us nothing whatsoever about the status of languages declared by a nation state when said nation state leaves the organisation.

    Indeed not; because it’s not relevant.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So the Republic of Ireland did not categorically replace English with Irish as their offical language?

    Russian is spoken in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania without official status.

  • Nicholas Whyte

    So the Republic of Ireland did not categorically replace English with Irish as their offical language?

    No. Ireland requested (30-odd years after joining) that Irish become an official EU language and the other states agreed. If Ireland left, Irish would still be an official EU language until there was a formal decision to remove it. (Which probably would not take long.)

    Russian is spoken in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania without official status.

    So therefore irrelevant in this case.

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I think she said that back in June, after the result, and it only cropped up again recently because of one the vagaries of the facebook algorithims. While I am an avid advocate of An Ghaeilge, I don’t think it would be to the advantage of Irish to have English turfed out of the EU club, desirable as it might be for reasons of tribal spite and revenge. For instance most Irish translators working in the EU translate from English to Irish – if English were removed they would be required to learn another language which would not be impossible, indeed many Irish language speakers have a facility for learning additional languages, but it would be inconvenient and it would forestall the further progress of the Irish language in the EU apparatus in the short term.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My own Latin is now rather rusty (although I still indulge in Latin quotes on Slugger) but I might just muddle through on my French….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Many a true word Roger…….

    As has long been pointed out (recently by Linda Ervine for example) the English we speak is framed employing many aspects of Irish language gramatic usage. I tend to be more “home counties” in my grammatical use of the Bearla myself, but I’m in a tiny minority.

  • SeaanUiNeill
  • chrisjones2

    They bmay indeed ….but when will Klingon finally get official recognition

  • chrisjones2

    “the nasty racist and xenophobic behaviour that has emerged all over England”


  • chrisjones2

    Bloody spoell check Hindi

  • chrisjones2

    If you can find a way to keep me alive and in good health that long I shall be delighted

  • terence patrick hewett

    Never knew that:I learn something every day. Swift was one of the few who came out with some shreads of self respect.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Klosters? Try it in the summer months.

  • grumpy oul man

    I am sure the Klingon high command will tell us when to give their beautiful tongue official recognition,
    Until then i advise a bit of respect, they don’t like being disrespected!

  • austin mcclafferty

    A strange name all the same. For a comanche.

  • npbinni

    This reminded me of a story (probably not true) of French generals at a military conference complaining to an American general about the fact that they had to speak English. Rather undiplomatically the American replied: ‘if it wasn’t for us you would all be speaking German.

    …and Ms Hubner might no longer be speaking Polish!

    Of course, English is a hybrid of numerous languages, with a very flexible syntax, which makes it ideal as a versatile means of communication.

    But wouldn’t it be fun watching the Irish have to learn German or French fluently seeing most of them hated having to study Gaelic at school?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m inclined to believe on the first point, but without legal evidence I’m going to have some lingering doubts…

  • Nicholas Whyte
  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m going to have to just double check Article 342 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union for myself, just to be sure.

    You know journalists these days.

  • Old Mortality

    I meant seedy in the physical sense, not a comment on the inhabitants.

  • billypilgrim1

    Indeed, that’s where the phrase Lingua Franca comes from.

  • John Collins

    How often have you been to Waterford? and have you been there in the last five years?
    BTW I am not from Irelands oldest city or have I ever lived there.