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Last Updated: Monday, 21 February 2005, 18:03 GMT
Italy angry at EU language curbs
EU documents
Translated languages have dropped from 20 to three
Italy has complained at EU Commission plans to drop Italian translation from some of its press briefings.

In a letter to the president of the commission, the Italian ambassador to the EU asked why Italian was "relegated to a completely secondary division".

Some Italian newspapers have joined in the row and European Affairs Minister Rocco Buttiglione called the commission's move "unacceptable".

The EU denied Italy was being singled out and said the move was pragmatic.

Until now, EU Commission press conferences have been translated in the 20 official EU languages. Last week, it decided only English, French and German would be automatically translated.

"We have to consider the unavailability of interpreters and their costs," EU Commission spokeswoman Francoise Le Bail was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.

Claims 'exaggerated'

But in a letter to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Italy's EU envoy Rocco Cangelosi complained of "grave discrimination".

He also said it was a "clear violation of treaties", AP reported.

"The decision to discriminate against Italian is unacceptable," Mr Buttiglione said.

The Italian commissioner in Brussels, Franco Frattini, reportedly told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that from now on, he would only speak Italian at his own press conferences.

The same newspaper said in a front-page editorial on Saturday: "For the first time, Italian public opinion has been informed... that our country will no longer be a leading nation in the Union but will occupy a place in the second row."

"Let's relaunch Italian prestige," Rome's daily Il Messagero said in its front-page commentary on the issue.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini attempted to play down the furore, describing as "exaggerated" the notion that the move downgraded Rome's influence in the EU.

"The promotion of the Italian language and identity within the European Union and in the world not only is not a secondary issue, but it is one of the foreign ministry's main goals," he was quoted in the Corriere della Sera as saying.

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