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February 08, 2007

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KNeefs

I don't really see how semantic considerations should really entice us to choose one language over the other. Both language and the law are dynamic by their very nature. Is a term is more manageable from a legal point of view, simply by its significance in the common language? I don't believe this, the legal interpretation of words will often and in any language differ from their common use.

From a practical point of view, I see more arguments for English. Firstly, it's the lingua franca of business both in Europe and beyond, which is far from irrelevant given the broad effect of some European legislation. Secondly, competition law -a not insignificant part of EU legal affairs- is a discipline in which I believe a common language with our American colleagues is a significant advantage in regards to international cooperation and access to legal sources.

Chichito

Boy, this blog is less and less about antitrust...not even a reference to any of the important judgments of the last few months, and instead the visitor is supposed to read about teenager movies and teenager political views. I don't want to be rude but it is not worth reading anymore.
Now, about the article. The fact that Le Pen may have followers in this "bunch of sovereignists" does not mean they do not raise a real issue. The language used conveys meaning and an entire cultural approach to law. No, one language should never prevail over the rest. No, neither French, nor Dutch, nor English. I could understand that french would have a certain "authority" for textes or judgments before 1974. But the ECJ (even though it drafts its judgments in French) is always careful to take a broader, comparative approach whenever there are divergences between linguistic versions. In a Community of 21 languages that's the right thing to do. Antitrust is a case in point: right now the intellectual fray is getting poorer by the day, and I can't avoid the thought that the exclusive use of English imports an entire set of premises, legal categories, prejudices, and yes, political views into any debate on antitrust. In the meantime, a silent majority of EU citizens, lawyers and academics are left without a voice in any discussion about the present and future of EU antitrust. Exhibit 1: the Article 82 DG Competition staff paper, for "public consultation" but only available in English (a relevant example among many); hence a debate essentially limited to, and led by, lawyers from the common law tradition. Exhibit 2: ECN authorities communicating among themselves essentially in English. Exhibit 3: legal professional privilege is imported to a large extent into EU law in an expansive form, unknown outside the UK and Ireland: the legal tradition of a vast majority of EU member states is brushed aside in favour of that of a minority; perhaps the fact that the doctrinal debate is overwhelmingly conducted in English has something to do with it.
The previous comment mentions that use of English improves "access to legal sources": which ones? Exclusivity over the entire "market for legal thinking" (if you allow the pun) leads to foreclosure; in law, overwhelming dominance of one language leads to empoverishment of the legal debate and, ultimately, is antidemocratic. Therefore: no to French as the exclusive EU legal language. But also no to English, Maltese, Spanish or Czech.

KNeefs

Chichito, your "exhibits" 1 and 2 are built upon false premesis in my view. What makes you believe only lawyers from the common law tradition can participate in a debate in English? The majority -if not all- of European competition law practitioners have a more than decent command of English, so not only is it the logical choice as a "working" language (I'm no fan of exclusivity either), it would be blatantly inefficient not to use it.

Your view of a multilingual debate is fine within the European institutions, where immense budgets are spent on translations, but I cannot see how the use of English is an empoverishment of the debate outside of this "ideal" world. Whilst you claim that dominance of a language forecloses the doctrinal debate, in my view it does not. Expressing your views in a language which is different from your own does not imply abandoning your own legal tradition.

The use of a "common" language can only broaden the doctrinal debate. For instance, if I were a French professor publishing my opinions on the GSK case I would more likely receive comments or interesting arguments from my German (or Greek, or Spanish) colleague if I were to publish it in English than if I were to publish it in French, would I not? If I were to have expressed my opinion in Dutch -my native language-, would you have replied to my post?

nico

you know what Chichito "boy"? If you dont like the blog any longer, please dont read it. It is a free access website so really dont bother (the visitor is not "supposed to read" as you mention in your comment). My suggestion: Delete the bookmark and never come back.

For the sake of addressing the criticism, however, I shall recall that as a webmaster of that blog - together with Damien - I am in charge of the editorial line of our posts. Since we are not narrow-minded people (our friends can confirm), our interests encompass not only antitrust law, but all things related to EC law in general, including politics and language issues (I dont get the "teenage" stuff).

In addition, I have explained many times that I was busy with other projects, explaining the limited posting activity on the blog. A lot of people have apparently understood that: it did not prevent the blog from crossing 50.000 visits last week. Maybe you haven't, which tells me that that you are, at best, an unknown quantity.

Kind regards,

Nicolas

Nico

On the language issue, the use of a common language allows (i) a form of "interoperability" which - as Kristoff rightly suggests - increases awareness and public participation to the doctrinal debate and (ii) increases the institutions' productive efficiency in limiting the translation costs incurred, delays into the legislative process, allow the reallocation of resources from linguistic to operational tasks, etc.

The Article 82 EC review stands out as a clear example that english does NOT hinder participation to the public debate. It has triggered loads of comments from people with different legal (not only common law) and linguistic backgrounds (in passing a general suggestion: before making a point, you'd better verify it empirically. In the present situation, check the Commission's webpage). Other examples of the fact that most competition specialists are keen on using english as an interface language: the online version of the revue 'concurrences' is translated to english. The Revue International de Droit Economique publishes summaries in English, and so on. Many French, Spanish and German law firms here in Bssls do a substantial part of their internal work in English.

Now, conceptually, Antitrust law very well qualifies for one single language. Rather than belonging to legal history, most of its underpinning concepts stem from economics, and thus do not differ according to languages. I am sorry "boy" but although you are strongly (exclusively?) interested into antitrust, you do not seem to know it so well. Maybe you should further educate yourself "boy", for instance by reading other antitrust law blogs.

Kind regards,

Nicolas

chichito

Sorry Petit, I certainly did not expect your gratitude for free feedback about your blog to be expressed with such vehemence. You are welcome. About antitrust education I am sure that I have a thing or two to learn, but I believe my friend Damien would tell you that not so many as you appear to think.
About the interesting comments of KNeefs: yes, mine is an ideal view of the world, but exhibits 1 and 2 are based on direct experience. I have read, assessed, and commented on all the contributions to the Article 82 debate and I regularly attend ECN meetings. Some schools of thought are poorly represented in any debate taking place exclusively in English. I grant you that multilingual debate on everything is not always possible, but everyday dozens of anodine agricultural regulations are published in 21 languages in the O.J. I don't think it would have been unreasonable to post an important paper on a key Treaty provision in all languages, or at least in three.
I am sure nobody consciously "abandons" a legal tradition by writing in a language other than their own. I do believe, however, that the language used permeates and unconsciously directs the debate. I have witnessed discussions on fundamental issues become completely biased just because everybody assumed that the law was "everywhere" a certain way; the reason for the misunderstanding was that most participants had not read anything in any language other than English, and of course the common law tradition was overrepresented in the sources consulted by participants. I am not sure that the examples cited by Mr Petit show how "keen" competition specialists are on using English. They adapt to a reality; how keenly I don't know. These examples may also show that there is little interest in antitrust outside the specialist community; or perhaps they will reinforce this phenomenon. I find this troubling at a time of decentralisation. But at least these are free choices made by publishers and editors; in the Article 82 debate a public body, the Commission, made the choice for everybody. It is a pity that somebody's input in the process, no matter how interesting, will not be considered unless it is made in one particular language (and we all know that's the way it works). I would be particularly disappointed if people think that they don't need to read anything in languages other than English to become "educated" in competition law ;-) Many years ago, Valentine Korah used to say that she preferred reading René Joliet's writings in French than whatever other people were writing in English. Today, what sources, authors, reviews, etc. do we read in French, Spanish or German? I have seen articles discussing the ordoliberal school by authors who obviosuly had never read anything from Röpke, Bohm, Eucken or any other ordoliberal economist.
And finally about the blog: of course I will drop by from time to time, and I don't count on this for my daily antitrust news. And I have nothing against my much-admired webmaster commenting on "Blade" and venting his anger at French "sovereignists" (by the way, the letter of the law professors did raise genuine and interesting legal concerns...although of course in French, I don't know if anybody has read them). But from time to time something about antitrust, would it be too much to ask? I thought that this was the whole point of leaving a space for "comments" in a blog.

Chichito

One last clarification, Nicolas: "BOY", in English, is used interjectionally to express intensity of feeling (such as in "boy, this was great !" or "boy, am I tired !"). You should not have taken this as an insult. This sort of proves my point: some misunderstandings are unavoidable with non-native speakers, no matter how proficient. It's better to address people in their own language.
It's late, I stayed up (to educate myself a bit) but now I am knackered.

Nico

Thks for the language and the blogging lessons. I briefly checked yesterday and it happens that this post on language was one of the most referenced on other websites for the past weeks. I'd take that as a sign that our entry was of interest for the weblogs market.

Just let me reiterate one point: If you feel like not reading the blog any longer, just don't do it. Really, I dont see the need for you to post comments calling other visitors to no longer read it.

There was no vehemence in my words. Simply that we find it odd to get that kind of trash comments from a visitor to a free access website (and supposedly a friend of ours) - which takes a lot of our scarce time. It is neither polite, nor really fair. And in fact, sorry again, but I dont see why you spend time commenting on an issue which from scratch you say is of no interest to you.

Kind regards, boy (with intensity of feeling:),

Nicolas

L'Albatros


Me English so bad it better I write French.
Dans mes cours de littérature (il y a longtemps maintenant, je le confesse), on disait "traduttore, traditore".
Et dans mes cours de droit (bien des années également), "testis unus, testis nullus" ou encore "juge unique, juge inique".
Vous en ferez ce que vous voudrez, mais force me paraît de reconnaître que Chichito "Boy" ne méritait pas cette piquante avanie et philippique vaniteuse. He certainly had a point.
De même Druon et consorts ont-ils au moins le mérite, fût-ce de manière ironiquement paradoxale, de mettre en lumière la prégnance progressive de l'anglais dans les affaires communautaires. Et singulièrement dans le cas du droit de la concurrence.
Importons, exportons, échangeons termes et concepts, au sein de l'Union et au-delà aussi. En idées plus encore qu'en toutes autres choses, circulation est richesse. Mais assurons-nous aussi que, chemin faisant, nous ne laissions pas au bord de la route ceux qui ne pourront pas converser doctement dans la langue anglaise. A peine d'y perdre une certaine idée de l'Europe...
Amitiés,
L'Albatros


nico

Cher Albatros,

notre ami Chichico n'a pas - c'est du moins ce qu'il me semble - fait l'objet d'une philippique vaniteuse. La vanité, il s'en était drappé en appelant les visiteurs du présent weblog à cesser de le consulter.

Quant à mon "idée" de l'union Européenne, elle dépasse de loin celle d'une organisation internationale de la traduction.

De nouveau, nos discussions démontrent empiriquement toute la passion qui entoure les questions linguistiques.

Meilleures salutations,

Nicolas.

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