Consider this paradox. In the last decade, one of the dominant idea of European solidarity has encouraged people of Europe to believe they are Europeans before their respective nationalities. But parallel to this thread of political movement, there have been more, and not less, emphasis on the importance language plays on the national fronts.
All the more ironic, then, that in the 21st century there would be such a push to tie language to citizenship and inclusion, particularly throughout Europe. According to a Harris poll in 2007, 86% of Germans, 83% of Britons, 61% of French and Italians and 50% of Spaniards believe that citizenship and language tests are necessary for new immigrants. Quite which Spanish language immigrants in Spain are supposed to speak is not entirely clear. Nonetheless, half the country wants them to speak it.
Often, the greater the geographic proximity in which these languages are spoken, the greater the tension. But where Flemish culture is concerned, the primary threat is not really French but American culture and the English language.
With austerity bills landing on the doorsteps of those countries, will language be the final straw that breaks the euro-camel’s back?