Languages and EU law case T-185/05

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Dec 5 16:43:11 UTC 2008

There's nothing quite as sensitive as the law of languages in EU law.
And the judgment of the Court of First Instance in Case T-185/05 Italy
v. Commission shows just how sensitive and litigious the member States
are about languages. The Commission decided in principle in 2004 to
publish job vacancies for a senior positions in English, French and
German only. Then, in 2005, it published a vacancy for the post of
Director general in OLAF, the Commission's infamous anti-fraud office,
in English, French and German only.

Italy, supported by Latvia and Spain, brought an action to annul both
the 2004 decision of principle and the job vacancy in OLAF on the
ground that they breached Regulation n° 1/1958 which, they claimed,
required that all notices affecting citizens throughout the EU must be
published in all languages. They also claimed that publication in
selected languages was a breach of Article 12 EC because it
discriminated against the citizens who spoke the other languages.

The Court of First Instance annulled the two measures. But the Court
of First Instance did not agree with Italy that the Commission had
breached Regulation n° 1/1958. It held that Regulation n° 1/1958 did
not lay down a general principle that the institutions are required
routinely to publish the vacancy notices at issue in the Official
Journal in all the official languages. The Court of First Instance
recalled that Regulation n° 1 does not apply to relations between the
institutions and their employees, including candidates for jobs (Case
T-203/03 Rasmussen v. Commission, paragraph 60).

The Court of First Instance also held that there is no general
principle of EC law that confers a right on every citizen to have a
version of anything that might affect his interests drawn up in his
language in all circumstances (Case C-361/01 P Kik v OHIM, paragraph
82). Such a general principle could not, for example, be inferred from
Article 290 EC and Article 314 EC. On the other hand, the Court of
First Instance found that the publication of posts in selected
languages is discriminatory and should be annulled for that reason.

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