As the EU Observer reports, the Commission has poured cold water on an “English-only” entrance exam for the EU institutions for the benefit of our cross-channel chums in Britannia, saying it is “illegal”.
After all, up to now all candidates have had to demonstrate an ability of at least one other language – fair enough really, at least when you’re working in an organisation which has no less than 23 official languages.
Yet, in an attempt to get more Brits to apply to work in the EU institutions, the UK government has called for more flexibility in the “concours” in order to allow more monoglot UK candidates to feel up to the challenge of applying for a well-heeled position in the institutions.
This is all very embarrassing – at least for The Lobby’s anglo-saxon arm. It is true that working life in the EU institutions has now been anglicised to such an extent that one could easily get away with only speaking English – but that is hardly the point.
If Brits are unwilling to learn another language, then what does it say about them? Can’t be bothered to learn a language, don’t care much for other countries, no interest for other cultures. Frankly, why would we want them in Brussels? And why would they want to come?
Rather than try to force a lowering in standards for entrance – a race to the bottom – the UK administration would be better off trying to tackle the problem at source, namely increase – not reduce, as is currently happening – language learning in UK schools.
If failure to do this means the number of British nationals in the EU institutions declines, resulting in a perceived lack of UK influence in the EU corridors of power – then so be it. Sorry. Tough luck. Put your own house in order first.
There is, though, an additional reason for the underrepresentation of the UK, particularly in the lower levels, which actually has little to do with languages and more to do with the education system.
When UK students leave universities they do so aged 21 and are expected to virtually walk straight into a career, buy a house, you name it. When you have a student debt in excess of €20,000, you have little choice in the matter.
The giant debt acquired by the average British student automatically rules out earning an internship wage with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. Why come to Brussels on a shoestring budget when you can rake it in in the City?
In contrast most upcoming Eurocrats from other countries have little debt to speak of, are delighted to get Brussels-based internships after their university education, and would not consider buying a property until around the age of 30. The rush to enter a career and get on the property ladder, so prevalent in the UK, appears to be absent from their mindset.
So is there any hope for our poor, poverty-stricken monoglot British graduate?
Look no further than The Lobby’s alma mater, Maastricht University, which has unleashed a PR blitz on UK students, encouraging them to leave behind the sky-high university fees in the UK and experience a continental education in a city synonymous with EU integration.
Will this help boost UK representation in the institutions? Maybe. Or maybe not. After all, the courses on offer in Maastricht are…in English.