So our very own Cathy Ashton has, at the behest of French Foreign Minister Pierre Lallouche, agreed to take French lessons. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have cause to thank M. Lallouche for his outspoken condemnation of the British Tories’ decision to leave the EPP (the mainstream centre-right group in the European Parliament).
But, I’m afraid, my good will has been severely tested by Pierre L’s latest wheeze that Baroness Ashton should improve her French. Yes, I do in general think the British are hopeless at foreign languages and we should do much better. The same, of course, could be said about the French.
However, it’s absolutely not up to some French government minister to tell senior politicians and diplomats what language to speak. May I remind the French that there are 23 official working languages in the EU? We know that the Germans would like their mother tongue to be one of the European External Action Service’s languages. Where will this stop? Spanish, which surely has a good case as the third most spoken language in the world. Italian or Polish, both of whose countries are the same size as Spain.
Cathy, ever willing to take up a challenge, has agreed to attend the Millefeuille language school near Avignon. Having been there myself, incidentally at the same time as a European Commissioner, I can highly recommend it. It’s a fantastic setting and the teaching is excellent. Bonne chance, Catherine.