Lithuanians request linguistic understanding

  • 2004-10-13
  • Baltic News Service
VILNIUS - The government said last week that it has asked EU institutions for permission to use the Lithuanian form of the word "euro" for linguistic reasons.

Government officials said they sent a letter to Jan Peter Balkenende, prime minister of the Netherlands - which is presiding over the rotating EU - stating that the non-inflective form of the term "euro" is "unacceptable in the Lithuanian language." A copy of the letter has also been sent to European Commission President Romano Prodi.

The government's press service reported that Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas stressed to his Dutch colleague that the Lithuanian language was the state language in the constitution and that under the state's laws, all legal acts had to be worked out according to the principles of common language and legal terminology.

What's more, the Lithuanian form of the word "euro" is stipulated in Lithuania's EU Accession Treaty.

"I would like to stress once again that the non-inflective form of the term 'euro' is unacceptable to the Lithuanian language from a linguistic point of view. It would be absolutely incompatible with the unique system of noun inflection inherited from an Indo-European parent language and preserved in the Lithuanian language to date," Brazauskas reportedly wrote.

The prime minister expressed hope that a proper respect for the Lithuanian language would be shown and a solution acceptable to all would be found.

According to The EU Observer, Lithuanian diplomats point to two potential problems if the issue is not resolved. First, the new - and sometimes nonsensical - word would have to be included in all official documents, including treaties and the new constitution, making the treaties incomprehensible to Lithuanians in some cases. Second, the usage would have to be adhered to in the Lithuanian media, and eventually would have to be accepted in everyday use.

This is likely to be extremely unpopular with Lithuanians, the daily said.

The daily cited Lithuanian experts as saying that "such a requirement would, without any doubt, increase the numbers of Euroskeptics."

One official expressed concerns that the requirement would make it harder to "sell" Europe to Lithuanians. "What we will probably hear from the people is 'we only joined the EU in May and already they want to take our language away from us,'" the official said.

During a meeting of EU finance ministers in September, ministers from new member states - Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary and Slovenia - said that different spellings of the word "euro" were in use in their countries to ease its pronunciation.

However, a recent EC publication suggested that the word "euro" had to be spelt the same in all official EU documents. During the meeting of EU finance ministers, Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said that having different spellings in use "would not be very helpful to create unity and clarity in Europe."

European Central Bank President Jean Claude Trichet earlier said that his staff had checked the legal situation and found that the spelling "euro" had been mandated as far back as 1997.

The euro is the currency of 12 of the 25 EU member states. Many of the 10 new member states are striving to adopt it in the next few years.