'Monsieur Non': French EU envoy walks out in English row

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - France’s ambassador has walked out of talks with fellow EU envoys over a lack of French translation, in a new demonstration of Paris pushing to curb the dominance of English in post-Brexit Brussels.

“The ambassador left the room to show his disapproval,” one EU diplomat said of Philippe Leglise-Costa’s decision to quit a meeting on Wednesday after discovering that no interpretation facilities would be provided for a new forum on the EU budget.

Officials said the format proposed for the new forum, to be launched during negotiations starting soon on a new seven-year EU budget, was one under which translators are not present in order to ease the logistics of calling informal discussions.

That, however, irks French diplomats seeking to assert the leading role their language long played in the Union that France co-founded six decades ago; without interpreters, most other countries’ officials tend to converse by default in English.

That trend has been particularly acute since many eastern and northern countries joined in the past 25 years. Paris sees in next year’s departure of Britain, the only state for which English is the official EU language, a chance for change.

French officials speak of Brexit being a “catalyst” for a shift in the Brussels linguistic power balance, and President Emmanuel Macron - a fluent English speaker - has vowed to promote French, calling the rise of English “paradoxical” at a time when Britain is leaving the EU.

(This story corrects paragraphs 2 and 3 to show meeting he left was not itself about the budget.)

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Gareth Jones