28 SEP 2010
A Flemish-speaking Belgian politician has fanned the flames of a heated EU language debate and outraged the country's French speaking community by calling for English to become Europe's "common language".
By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels ¦ Telegraph
Pascal Smet, the schools minister for Flanders, has horrified his country's francophones by suggesting that Flemish children, who are Dutch speakers, should learn English as their second language, rather than the French spoken by two fifths of their countrymen in Wallonia.
As well as dismissing French as one of Federal Belgium's official languages, Mr Smet has picked a broader fight by calling for the language of Shakespeare to supplant that of Moliere as the expression of the European ideal.
"I note that the engine of European integration is sputtering. One reason is that we do not speak the same tongue, hence my plea for a common European language," he said.
"It seems logical to me that this is English, which is already the lingua franca of international economics and politics. French is not spoken anywhere in the world while English is now increasingly becoming a global language."
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