Re: ISO 10646 compliance and EU law

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sat Dec 25 2004 - 22:54:40 CST

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    From: "Michael Everson" <>
    > From: "E. Keown"
    >>A reliable friend told me that compliance with ISO 10646 is now part of
    >>the legal structure of the EU (European Union).
    > A reliable friend would quote actual evidence.

    A more reliable source, with official documents related to European
    legislation for the languages in the EU (available in English, French,
    German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Greek, Finnish):

    The last *decisions* in 2003 and 2002 were "resolutions" which are just
    recommanding measures in a "framework for progress" including an "action
    plan" for 2004-2006, but even these resolutions are not mandatory.

    In the EU, the constraining legislation is made of "directives", which can
    only enter into application when they are "implemented" (in a timeframe of
    about 2 years after the directive has been published) by the national
    legislation of a member country.

    Unlike "directives" made by the Commission, the "resolutions" on the
    opposite are political decisions from the European Parlement that are there
    to influence the work of the Commission and of member governments, when they
    will propose legal reforms either at a national level or at the European
    level, but they do not need to be backed by legal acts.

    More importantly, the European Commission recognizes the role of national,
    regional and local authorities for the preservation and promotion of
    language diversity (which goes far beyond the only few official languages of
    the European Union), and the European Union will not substitute to member
    states but will supplement and support them, through funding programs,
    especially in the field of education (the "life-long language learning"
    program, for at least one mother tongue and two other languages).

    The program is much more ambicious than the necessary limited set of
    supported languages for legal and working documents in the EU institutions.
    For these documents (see EuraLex), there are technical constraints, but
    these constraints only apply to the internal work of each institution, and
    have no mandatory impact on EU citizens or organizations or member states.
    For example, the EU programs DO include the support and funding of education
    for minority languages, including languages spoken and written by migrants
    and refugees in Europe, so this covers nearly all modern languages of the
    world (helped at least within the conditions of other minority languages in
    member states)...

    The other key legal document are the EC and EU Treaties, notably articles 3
    and 149 to 151 of the EC Treaty, and article 6 of the EU Treaty; plus
    article 314 (former 248) of the EC Treaty which lays down the "principles of
    multilinguism" and article 21 that states that "every citizen of the Union
    may write to any of the institutions or bodies in one of the languages
    mentioned in Article 314 and have an answer in the same language."

    Other official information about "official languages" in the EU:

    The original EC treaty in 1958 only had 4 official working languages: Dutch,
    French, German and Italian. But it includes now English (added very lately,
    when UK and Ireland joined the EC), Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Finnish,
    Swedish, Irish Gaelic under the principle that at least one official
    language of the EC (now EU) must be an official language of the member
    country (all references I see for now still speak about 11 working

    I still wonder if the new 10 EU members required adding some official
    languages for works in the EU institutions (notably Polish and Hungarian,
    but also Czech and Slovak, or Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian and Maltese), or
    if the 3 other candidates will request their majority official language too
    (Bulgarian and Romanian soon, but also Turkish in the discussions starting
    next year).

    [COMMENT: The case of Polish today face to Irish Gaelic is curious, given
    that Polish is a majority language in one of the largest EU member, and
    Irish Gaelic is an official but minority language of Ireland (where English
    is also official), and there are important migrant Polish communities
    throughout Europe ensuring easier access to translation from/into Polish
    than from/into Irish.]

    In weekly meetings today, only English, French and German interpretation are
    guaranteed, and for non-legal working documents (like temporary reports), it
    often happens that the documents are left untranslated in one of these 3
    languages (most often in English, but translations may be added later
    depending on the interest of the document).

    In the EU legislation, there are tons of references to "languages", but much
    less about "script systems"; I have found no regulation about "encoding",
    beside the few obsolete references given in the MES character sets standard,
    which are also only recommendations and not mandatory... Eur-Lex and Pre-Lex
    (for example) contains *zero* reference to the "10646" or "Unicode" search

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