EU Officials Entry Exam - UK Lobbying For Language Change

News & SocietyPolitics

  • Author Steve Greenwood
  • Published September 21, 2010
  • Word count 570

The government is challenging the rules for the EU Officials Entry Exam. At present candidates must use a second language rather than their mother tongue.

The new British government is now challenging the rules set down for the Brussels civil service exams. The civil service holds a compulsory exam for all European Union citizens who want to work as European Union officials. Currently, the Brussels civil service entry exam must be taken by candidates in a second language rather than their mother tongue.

It seems that the British government has secured an early victory because starting from next year; pre-selection tests for EU civil servants can be taken in English. However, France may not be too happy with this decision. Paris is against such policy and defended for the EU civil service exam to be taken in the candidate’s second language. Some say the objection is because the French government is witnessing the use of French declining over recent years, compared to its rival English.

What the British government is more concerned about is the number of Britons being admitted into the EU commission as working officials. The EU Commission is where early drafting of new policies and regulations take place. Without enough Britons working inside the EU Commission, the UK government fear that they are falling behind in influencing future policy making within the EU. The move to challenge the language rules for civil service exam aims to increase the number of British Citizens working in all level of the EU governmental machinery, in particular within the EU Commission.

We have seen the decline in the number of British EU Officials working in Brussels following the drop of second language teaching in the UK. The newly elected Conservative government blames the previous Labour government of its second language education policy now resulting in a generation gap of British presence within the EU decision making organizations.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague also agreed that the challenge to the civil service exam language rules is motivated by the need to increase the number of Britons securing more EU jobs. The current statistic shows that Britain only makes up for 1.8 percent within the EU Commission entry level positions, even though the UK represents almost 12 percent of the entire EU population. Mr Hague said the new government now aims to give due weight to the exercise of UK influence in the EU.

The Foreign Secretary also outlined that the world political landscape has now shifted towards the eastern countries and therefore it is crucial for the new generation of British to learn second languages. Britain can no longer only play its cards with the Western diplomatic players. On the contrary, future diplomats must learn second languages that are useful in countries such as Poland, Russia, China, India, North African countries, Turkey, and Brazil. The United States is no longer the most reactive player within foreign affairs.

Although the British government has managed to secure the short term victory to allow Britons to take the EU civil service exam in English, this move might not be the best for Britain’s long term interests. The widespread attitude of not needing to learn second languages by most Britons is likely to decrease its competitiveness in the international affairs arena. It is hoped that the new government will roll out new education policies that will encourage more students to take up second language studies.

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