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German speakers marginalised in new EU diplomatic corps

The Local · 13 Sep 2010, 14:07

Published: 13 Sep 2010 14:07 GMT+02:00

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Daily Die Welt reported Monday that deputy parliamentary leader of Chancellor Merkel's conservatives, Johannes Singhammer, was demanding more officials in the EU's new foreign service, the European External Action Service, speak German.

"I expect that the promise of the Foreign Office, that German is an important prerequisite for the new European foreign service, becomes reality," he told the paper.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle reportedly admitted to Singhammer in writing in June that German skills, unlike English and French, were not a major factor in picking out EU diplomats. But he also said Berlin had pushed officials in Brussels to give the mother tongue of nearly a fifth of all EU citizens more importance at the EEAS.

“Following my intervention, the EU Vice-President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, has given her assurance that German will play a key role,” wrote Westerwelle.

But then in August, the Foreign Ministry informed Singhammer that German speakers would not be given any preference in the new diplomatic corps. The MP is now demanding Berlin use the fact that Germany pays the lion's share of the EEAS budget in order to "anchor" German in the EU foreign service.

Story continues below…

The EEAS was created following the Lisbon Treaty of December 2009 and is currently recruiting 8,000 staff to help deal with EU foreign affairs. In the past, British citizen Ashton herself has been criticised for her poor foreign language skills.

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Your comments about this article

14:26 September 13, 2010 by catjones
Or else germany will hold its breath....grow up.
15:00 September 13, 2010 by Kayak
Who are these two engineers Goethe and Schiller? Which Auto-Manufacturer were they with?

Never heard of 'em!
15:36 September 13, 2010 by Prufrock2010
French has been the official language of diplomacy for hundreds of years, and English is the language of commerce. English is understood in virtually every nation on earth, wile very few people around the world speak German. Goethe and Schiller are still dead. Get over it, Herr Singhammer.
15:49 September 13, 2010 by AirForceGuy
And that's the way it is in the world, either live with ir or get out of the way...
16:32 September 13, 2010 by Major B
Maybe I'm the only one that sees a similarity to the same European arguments of 100 - 120 years ago. Don't blame Berlin for taking exception to the French-English power play here. Maybe "click" or "club" is a better "English" word for this attempted "slight". And the French are notorious about defending their heritage as well. Seems to me that the German speaking diplomats would also be conversant in English or French.
16:43 September 13, 2010 by Heine Steinfeldt
We had a better World Cup that both England and France. That alone should be reason enough for more German speakers.
21:26 September 13, 2010 by Alofat
Ah anglo-french chauvinism at it's best, what else is new.
23:01 September 13, 2010 by BR549
The problem with German is,,,,well, its German. It is among the least "pretty languages" and is too complicated with verbs.
02:36 September 14, 2010 by Bishopbayern
that brit woman is out her depth, get a german in soon! And don't ever trust the french!
04:37 September 14, 2010 by parografik
I personally don't enjoy listening to Cantonese, but I'm assuming I'll learn it when it becomes the official language of the EU.
05:14 September 14, 2010 by proclusian
1.) First of all, as usual, Westerwelle is to blame. Perhaps it is a communication problem? After all, Westerwelle isn't known for his English skills. Is he, in the least, competent about *anything*? Possibly the worst foreign minister in decades.

2.) In a broader historical perspective, the Germans have only themselves to blame: they should have been doing less Denken and had fewer Dichtern, and should have instead been out abusing 'the Colonies' like the French, the Belgians, and the English. Then there would be more people speaking German in the places where the EU needs to do diplomacy, such as Africa and SE Asia.

3.) Singhammer is right about one thing: Germany pays those salaries. So in this sense they should have a say, at very least.

@BR549: Are you kidding me? German is one of the most beautiful and supple languages there is, heir to Greek and Latin (in terms of its verb structures and cases), and if you read Goethe and Nietzsche in the original, you'd get that.
05:35 September 14, 2010 by JohnPaul44
The solution here is obvious. Language skills in the EU should be selected in proportion to the money each country pays in to support it. This is the way things work in the real world.

He who pays the piper, calls the tune! Put your money where your mouth is! Put up or shut up!

Any argument or disagreement can easily be settled without even bothering with words. Simply withdraw monetary support and the other countries will rapidly see the logic of your position.
07:14 September 14, 2010 by BR549

Structure and cases....but what about how it sounds?? Brutal.
11:47 September 14, 2010 by Aschaffenburgboy
I agree with the John Paul44, since Germany forks up most of the money, German should have precedence over any other language.
12:20 September 14, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
JohnPaul44 has it right people! England doesn't even use the Euro... And for those of you who don't like the sound of Deutsch, good!
12:23 September 14, 2010 by AirForceGuy
JohnPaul44 does have a good point. Germany should get more 'respect' since they pay a disporportinate share of the EU bills.
14:43 September 14, 2010 by AAR
This is the kind of behavior that sinks the EU in world diplomacy. The EU needs diplomats with superior qualifications. Expertise in their own national language is not among those. Yes, Germany pay large EU bills; but this does not mean Germany should impose itself on the EU diplomatic corps.
14:45 September 14, 2010 by design
german is ugly no one like speaking it because it is too rigid.
23:37 September 14, 2010 by Bishopbayern
Stuff the french thats a silly sounding language. And as for Design german is an amazing language and is a joy to listen too. Especially in song. It should be Europes premier language, spoken at its alpine heart right out to the North Sea. And England is a pimple on the bum of the world.
00:47 September 15, 2010 by Joshontour
Not just Goethe and Schiller; who didn't grow up with Brothers Grimm? Do you think Pippi is American? or Heidi? German literature ought not be translated into other languages if this is the appreciation it is shown.
06:00 September 15, 2010 by Hertha Fan
German is the most widely spoken language in the EU, that alone should be good enough reason for the EEAS to place more importance on the German language. Germany's above average financial contributions to the EU should also be taken into consideration.

I agree with bishopbayern, German is an amazing language & a joy to listen to.

@ design, I find German a joy to learn because of its rigidity - rules are rules, I like the structure. Unlike all the exceptions that make English, my natural language, difficult for speakers of other languages to learn.
08:21 September 15, 2010 by proclusian
I'm with @Hertha Fan and @Bishopbayern on these points. German is truly an amazing language.

@BR549: I don't really understand why BR549 thinks the German language sounds "brutal" ...? Perhaps some psychological associations? Too many American war films? I can't do anything about these things, and I don't agree.

As for @design, you need to learn to write a proper English sentence before you criticize German. Punctuation and proper verb/subject agreement are key.
18:09 September 15, 2010 by derExDeutsche
Maybe, Europe has heard quite enough of German Politicians over the course of the last 100 years. Maybe, this is just the ticket.

Germany likes to think they know whats best for everybody else... God they're so smart.

however, to everybody else, the 'so let them eat cake' attitude can be a bit sour if you're not on the Liberal Kook German Media Teet.

soo.. LET THEM EAT CAKE! Kein Deutsch, Singhammer!
01:38 September 16, 2010 by Logic Guy
Well, I've heard of similar problems in Switzerland, with the French being on the short end of things. About 70% of Swiss people are Swiss-German. And so, wouldn't it be logical for the French workers to learn German as well?

The fact is, without Deutschland, there would be no EU.

The current state of the EU is clear proof that Deutschland is critical. Therefore, the "Wonderful German Language" should have greater representation.
02:28 September 16, 2010 by JohnPaul44
"German is ugly"

When I first visited Germany in 1952 as an English-speaking GI, a "Fraulein" told me that English sounded very harsh to her. I tried to listen to some English for only the sound, without following the meaning of the words, and agreed with her.

"gains by German would mean losses by English and French"

I am sure the wonderful English and French diplomats were well aware of this when they imposed harsh and punitive economic sanctions on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. Germany did not cause World War I, but England and France were the winners and took advantage of it. Those greedy English and French diplomats were the direct cause of World War II.

"German is too rigid"

The rules of German grammar and its consistent spelling are wonderful compared to the sloppiness of English and the weirdness of French.
02:44 September 18, 2010 by padu
Some Germans who openly advocate not responding to English speakers in Germany will soon face serious problem all over the world. Imagine people of all foreign countries like Russia or China would ask travelling or expats Germans to speak their languages instead of English. And then what is the the use of learning English, if we dont want to use it domestically or overseas. We Germans are too arrogant and narrow-minded.
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