Will the indignity never end? The new European Union foreign minister, a Brit, speaks French badly! Ever more countries are inclined to drop the language from diplomatic discourse! It is time for action!
Senior French officials are mounting a rearguard action to defend the use of French at the UN and other international institutions as a language of diplomacy, in the face of the inexorable rise of English.
Paris has renewed its efforts to secure the future of French in international circles, partly prompted by the appointment of Britain’s Lady Ashton to head the European Union’s foreign policy in November.
Her faltering French, once unthinkable in a senior EU official, has been seized upon by the French media, reflecting concerns in Paris that the diplomatic machinery she is building will be Anglophone.
Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the former prime minister who is President Nicolas Sarkozy’s special envoy to promote French, was in New York at the end of last week to insist that its status as one of the two working languages at the UN must be respected.
The French démarche is the latest attempt to halt the rising tide of English as the dominant medium of diplomatic discourse. Mr Raffarin told journalists at a French-only briefing at his country’s New York mission: “President Sarkozy has asked me to approach international organisations to ensure the presence of French and to express, positively but firmly, a certain intransigeance francophone that the rules must be respected,”
Tragic, isn’t it. The rest of the world just doesn’t understand the grandeur, the sheer majesty, of the French language. But Paris came up with the answer: A bureaucrat must be dispatched to the UN!