PN candidate Peter Agius: Maltese language demotion in Brussels is unacceptable

Tajani speechwriter and MEP candidate Peter Agius says he will not accept inferior status for Maltese language in Brussels

Peter Agius: “I will not accept an inferior status for Maltese. In the past I contributed to end the derogation for the Maltese language translations. We can win this one as well.”
Peter Agius: “I will not accept an inferior status for Maltese. In the past I contributed to end the derogation for the Maltese language translations. We can win this one as well.”

The Nationalist candidate Peter Agius has said he will stand up the possible ‘demotion’ of the Maltese language inside the European Parliament, as capacity issues may affect translations for the language, as well as for Irish and Croatian. 

“The latest news that European Parliament could do without Maltese interpretation in many fora of the institution is of utmost concern. This is unacceptable. We have no shortage of interpreters, we have a shortage of opportunities to become a full-time professional one,” Agius, a speechwriter for EP president Antonio Tajani said. 

“There are more than 300 graduates who have read for a Masters in Maltese Translation and Interpretation from the University of Malta. As an MEP I would ensure that European Parliament recruiting policies are adapted to take stock of this reality. This matter affects our status in Brussels, I will not accept an inferior status for Maltese. In the past I contributed to end the derogation for the Maltese language translations. We can win this one as well.” 

The new Maltese members of the European Parliament elected next May will be returning to a parliament in which they might not have the full translation services for the Maltese language. 

In March, the European Parliament adopted by 433 votes to 209, with 20 abstentions, a decision to extend Rule 159 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which allows a derogation from the obligation to provide interpretation in all official EU languages. 

Rule 158 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure provides for the right of all MEPs to speak and use any official language of the EU, which accords all 24 official languages equal rights. That includes that the EP’s documents are to be drawn up in the official languages, and for all MEPs to have the right to speak in Parliament in the official language of their choice, with interpretation being provided into the other official languages. 

However, under Rule 159, derogations from Rule 158 are permissible when linguists required for an official language are not available in sufficient numbers. 

Agius however said that even the Maltese government was sending the wrong signals inside the institutions. 

“Unfortunately the use of Maltese in the European Courts of Justice, where the government presented eight out of 11 cases in English instead of Maltese, is sending all the wrong signals. You would never imagine the French or the Polish government doing anything like that. Same goes for ministry websites where only three out of 20 are available in Maltese. Others will not respect us unless we respect ourselves,” Agius said. 

“Irrespective of our size and small numbers of MEPs, no excuse should be tolerated to do without the Maltese language at EU level. We must do our part as well, by using, speaking and writing in Maltese in Europe and at home. I have done this in this campaign by writing all letters to the European Commission in Maltese. It may take an extra day or two to get a reply, but we convey the importance of our language to the EU institutions,” Agius said. 

Croatian MEP Suica Dubravka (EPP) has demanded the European Commission to explain what it is doing to ensure equal rights for all languages within the EU. 

“The explanation for [the extension of Rule 159] is that capacity in Croatian, Irish and Maltese is not expected to be such as to allow a full interpretation service in those languages from the beginning of the ninth parliamentary term. This puts the Croatian language in an inferior position to the other official languages of the EU,” she told the EC. 

“The fundamental principles of the European Union state that EU citizens have the right to obtain information about the EU’s activities in a language that they can understand and have the possibility of participating in the EU’s legislative process. Furthermore, the TFEU prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality, and therefore also on the grounds of language.” 

Another Croatian MEP, Ruza Tomasic (ECR), has protested the decision, given that Croatian is the only national language of Croatians. 

“The extension of Article 159 of the Rules of Procedure means a further postponement of the full application of Croatian, Irish and Maltese language, with the explanation that even at the beginning of the next convocation of Parliament there will be no capacities to provide full translation services. So how many centuries are necessary to ensure these capacities? Unlike Ireland and Malta, the Republic of Croatia has one official language, Croatian,” she said.