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EU language legislation

The EU currently has 24 official languages. The basic principles underlying its language policy are that EU citizens should:

  • be able to contribute to the building of the EU
  • be informed about what the EU is doing in their name
  • have access to EU law in a language they can understand.

The EU’s very first piece of legislation, Regulation No 1 of 1958, lists the official languages and specifies how they are to be used. New languages have been added as new countries have joined the EU.

The EU’s founding treaty states that EU citizens have the right to communicate with the EU institutions in the official language of their choice, and to receive a reply in the same language.

Who decides on the EU’s official languages?

Each country, before it joins, specifies which language it wants to have used as an official language for EU purposes. Not every language that has official status domestically is put forward for official EU status. The country's initial decision may be changed later — provided all the other national governments agree.

Related links

Translating for a multilingual community (annex 1)