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Official languages of the EU

What is it?

The European Union has 24 official and working languages. They are:

Bulgarian            

French

Maltese            

Croatian

German            

Polish

Czech

Greek

Portuguese

Danish

Hungarian

Romanian

Dutch

Irish

Slovak

English

Italian

Slovenian

Estonian

Latvian

Spanish

Finnish

Lithuanian

Swedish

The first official language policy of what was then the European Community identified Dutch, French, German, and Italian as the official working languages of the EU.

Since then, as more countries have become part of the EU, the number of official and working languages has increased. However, there are fewer official languages than Member States, as some share common languages.

On the other hand, some regional languages, such as Catalan and Welsh, have gained a status as co-official languages of the European Union. The official use of such languages can be authorised on the basis of an administrative arrangement concluded between the Council and the requesting Member State.

Why is it needed?

The European Commission maintains the policy that all EU citizens have the right to access all EU documents in the official language(s) of the Commission, and should be able to write to the Commission and receive a response in their own language.

In high-level meetings between Member States, the participants are able to use their own language when they take the floor. 

What is the Commission doing?

With a permanent staff of 1,750 linguists and 600 support staff, the Commission has one of the largest translation services in the world, bolstered by a further 600 full-time and 3,000 freelance interpreters.

In order to reduce the cost to the tax payer, the European Commission aims to provide visitors with web content either in their own language or in one they can understand, depending on their real needs. This language policy will be applied as consistently as possible across the new web presence. An evidence-based, user-focused approach will be used to decide whether many language versions are required or not.