Europe of languages or what happens when interpreters switch off their mikes

Even though the hot topic of these days, especially in Slovenia where we are not used to those that look different form our common Slovenian, is the refugee crisis (which Grega described last week), I decided to serve you a bit of a lighter topic this week from the side of EU360. A topic coloured with languages as tomorrow is the European day of languages which marks our multilingualism and linguistic richness. While it is general knowledge that the EU has 24 official languages and a number of working languages, I am going to give you a peek into what happens in Brussels, when interpreters switch off their mikes.


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Brussels: A political centre, a city of many faces

It is usually thought of the European Union capital city as a faceless conglomeration somewhere between France and the Netherlands, where heaven exists for bureaucrats that write incomprehensible legal and technical texts, and communicate with citizens in a similar style. Brussels is rarely considered for what it really is; probably a very unique place not only in Europe but in the world and very much comparable to Washington DC. Brussels is much more than just a beehive of officials. It is the center for political events in Europe and one of the most important places for lobbyists from different Member States. Brussels is certainly not impersonal or empty. Brussels are people, students, trainees, lobbyists, politicians, NGO workers and officials.

Photo: ŠM

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European Parliament’s Travelling Circus

The European Union is a strange thing. Instead of laws it has regulations and directives, instead of a constitution it has treaties, instead of a foreign minister it has a High Representative for Foreign and Security policy. And it has the seat of its parliament outside of its “capital”. That’s true. Even if a lot of people think that the huge glass building in the Leopold quarter in Brussels is the seat of the European Parliament, it is not true. The official seat of this institution is in the European quarter in Strasbourg, near the L’Ill river, close to the Palace of Europe (the seat of the Council of Europe) and the European Court of Human Rights. Why is that so? Why MEPs have to move, every month for 4 days to the capital of Alsace? And especially, can we stop this travelling circus?

Plenary chambers in Brussels and Strasbourg (Source: (c) European Union – European parliament)

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