The UE officially recognizes 23 languages, which are accepted as working languages. Of those languages English, French and German are the most used. On the other hand, Catalan, Galician and Russian are languages that have not been officially recognized, but are used almost as much as those mentioned before.
There has been a constant fight to let Russian become an official working language for the EU. Not only is Russian the native language of 144 million native speakers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, but also 6.5 million people living in the EU, and another 6 million people are fluent in it. This is the reason why Alexander Chepurin, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department who handles compatriot’s affairs, said it is a solid basis for declaring Russian as an official working language.
Earlier this year, the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots in France started an initiative for the European Union to grant their language official working status. It is believed that this would help settle many problems that they face daily, especially in the Baltic area.
Even though for most of us who do not live in the EU, it seems to be an easy decision that will only bring benefits to the large Russian speaking populations, the feelings are mixed in some European countries. Take Latvia for example, which has some villages where no one speaks a word of Russian, and other cities where you can’t go shopping without knowing it. For many people in that country, it seems absurd to add another official language, because they fear that they would be forced into learning it just to live continue living in their homes.
“We [Russian speakers] are not just visitors passing through, or strangers, or occupiers. Russians and Latvians both are ready to work for Latvia, but they must have the same rights and they must not be considered as second class citizens,” said a leader of the organization called Dzimta Valoda (Mother Tongue), Vladimirs Lindermans, started a campaign to convince Latvians not to participate in the anti-Russian movement.