The European Union has 24 official and working languages. They are: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.
The first Community Regulation determining official languages was passed in 1958. It specified Dutch, French, German and Italian as the first official and working languages of the EU, these being the languages of the Member States at that time. Since then, as more countries have become part of the EU, the number of official and working languages has increased. However, there are fewer official languages than Member States, as some share common languages. In Belgium, for example, the official languages are Dutch, French and German, whilst in Cyprus the majority of the population speaks Greek, which has official status.
There are two main entitlements for languages with “official and working” status:
- documents may be sent to EU institutions and a reply received in any of these languages
- EU regulations and other legislative documents are published in the official and working languages, as is the Official Journal
Due to time and budgetary constraints, relatively few working documents are translated into all languages. The European Commission employs English, French and German in general as procedural languages, whereas the European Parliament provides translation into different languages according to the needs of its Members.
More info: Official languages and other facts about European countries.