Furious Macron sues European Commission over use of English in hiring tests

France has taken a stand against the European Union’s growing use of English in its hiring practices, arguing that it discriminates against non-anglophone candidates and violates EU treaties promoting equal treatment of all citizens.

The EU has seen an increased use of Euro-English and Globish, simplified versions of English, particularly in the hiring process. However, France remains steadfast in its desire to see Brussels bureaucrats proficient in the French language.

Paris has launched a legal challenge against the EU Commission, run by Ursula von der Leyen, specifically targeting the bloc’s hiring of new officials in fields such as space, defence, and economics.

These positions are filled through a selection process that includes tests administered exclusively in English.

France contends that these criteria favour English-speaking candidates over others, and they have brought two complaints before the EU’s highest court, with one of them being made public recently.

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The heart of the matter, according to the French government, is that English-only tests are a form of discrimination, infringing upon the EU’s commitment to treat all its citizens equally, regardless of nationality. EU rules for recruiting officials generally prohibit language-based discrimination except under certain conditions.

A French diplomat, speaking anonymously to Politico, said: “It discriminates against non-anglophone candidates,” emphasising that this is not just a French concern, as other member states share similar apprehensions.

Italy has voiced support for the French position, highlighting that their stance is not against a particular language but rather in favour of multilingualism.

This challenge to the widespread use of English within the EU mirrors a domestic debate in France regarding the nation’s diminishing global influence. French President Emmanuel Macron has been actively promoting the use of French worldwide.

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He reiterated the importance of the French language during a recent speech while inaugurating the Cité internationale de la langue française, a new cultural center dedicated to French language and culture.

The European Personnel Selection Office, responsible for pre-hiring exams conducted by EU institutions, frequently releases “competition notices” specifying the criteria for each selection procedure. France’s legal action specifically targets two notices published in 2022 and 2023 that included exams given solely in English.

The General Court of the EU, responsible for adjudicating disputes involving EU institutions, is expected to rule on this issue within a year. Notably, the court has previously annulled EPSO competitions for unduly limiting language choices. Earlier this year, the Court of Justice of the EU, the final court of appeal for cases involving EU institutions, ruled in favour of Italy and Spain in similar cases.

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