There is a complex issue going on as to which business language to use between the European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB). The EU has allowed the use of any of the official languages within the Union but with the imminent role of the ECB as supervisor, it wants English to be the official language when conducting business.
The European Central Bank will start supervising 120 banks in the EU starting in November. However, 30 of these banks have chosen to conduct business in their own language, as opposed to the ECB’s wish that English be the official language to be used in written correspondences.
In the drafted framework text of the ECB for its supervisory role, it had clearly stated that it wanted English to be used by the banks. English had been its language of choice since 1998 when it was first established and one of its bases for hiring staff is their proficiency in the English language. However, this rule is compounded by the provision in the EU law that allows any of its 24 official languages to be used by its citizens when contacting institutions within the Union. Since there was negative feedback from the banks before, the regulation to use English was lost.
Not common in other countries
This is an issue that is not common in other countries where there is only one national language as in the United Kingdom and the United States. In the Eurozone, however, there are 18 countries and only two, Malta and Ireland, with a combined population of about five million, use English as their official language.
More translation expense
The ECB’s role to directly supervise the banks in the Eurozone started on November 4. The language issue now adds complexity and more expense to the task. Following the rules of the EU in language use, the ECB already uses a group of translators whose function is to issue official documents in English and 23 other languages, including other languages not used in the Eurozone, such as Romanian and Czech. It is now projected that the team of translators will have thousands more documents to read and translate.
The ECB is said to be boosting its workforce with about 1,000 more people for this new role although the number of translators the bank will or have already hired was not disclosed. The cost of document translation will be included by the ECB in the supervisory fees they will charge each bank according to their size.
The individual banks said they chose to use their native language for written correspondence to ensure that concepts and terms are correctly used and should there be errors in the translation, it would not become the responsibility of the individual bank. Other banks say that their choice was driven by the fact that many of their employees do not speak English.