It is not the first time that Greece’s European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou – whose proposal that Greece adopts English as a second official language recently grabbed the headlines – has made comments that make one wonder whether she has actually examined their exact meaning… This impression is very strong as regards the language issue. As Pantelis Boukalas noted recently, one had the impression that Diamantopoulou does not fully grasp the precise meaning of a state’s ‘official language.’ This impression was consolidated by the fact that she later insisted on the idea of adopting English as a second official language but, in essence, she merely referred to the need of intensifying the teaching of English – something which has nothing to do with the issue of an ‘official language.’ For if the term ‘official language’ has some formal meaning, this lies with its legal dimension: A language is official when it is recognized as an official linguistic tool in public services, courts, transactions with the state, school and university courses, and not when it is taught as a compulsory foreign language. Diamantopoulou ought to clarify her proposal. Proposing the intensification of English language classes is one thing, while proposing that English be used in official documents, universities and trials is quite another. The former is, no doubt, useful and right. The latter, however, is complex, costly and unnecessary in a country whose majority is made up of Greek speakers… Hence Turkey’s farsighted political forces want to see a change in official policy, as they deem that the present one is harming Turkish interests. In essence, they are asking for a more flexible policy and compromises in order to prevent Turkey’s exclusion from Europe. They rightly think that if they return to the previous position and accept the framework of a bizonal federation, Ankara will be let off and Western pressure will focus on Greece, in the sense that it will be asked to make painful compromises. The fact that Denktash asked for a meeting with Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides is a maneuver which definitely reflects Turkey’s attempt to find a solution without losing face.

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