European Journal of Language Policy

The Loi Toubon and EU law: a happy or a mismatched couple?

European Journal of Language Policy (2016), 8, (2), 139–152.

Abstract

“L’État, c’est la langue”, still aptly summarizes French language policy, which has since the 16th century consistently upheld the same principles. The Toubon law which was passed more than 20 years ago, is a logical continuation of that policy. This law contains far-reaching linguistic obligations, mandating the use of French not only in the public spheres, but also in domains governed by private law. Language rules are imposed on private operators with regard to the labelling of products, labour contracts, company rules, advertisements in public places, etc. The law has been fiercely criticised ever since it was passed, especially in the British and American press and blogs. Its compatibility with EU law is questioned. This contribution limits itself to a purely legal assessment of the Toubon law, in particular as to the issue of compatibility with EU law. It is argued that, generally speaking, the Toubon law is legally waterproof in that sense, as it does not impose the exclusive use of French, but allows for the use of other languages as well.

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van der Jeught, Stefaan