The French Constitutional Council as the Rottweiler of the Republican Ideal in the Language Field: Does Jurisprudence Really Reflect Reality?

Graziadei, Stefan
September 2012
European Diversity & Autonomy Papers;2012, Issue 3, p1
Academic Journal
France is known for being a champion of individual rights as well as for its overt hostility to any form of group rights. Linguistic pluralism in the public sphere is rejected for fear of babelization and Balkanization of the country. Over recent decades the Conseil Constitutionnel (CC) has, together with the Conseil d'État, remained arguably the strongest defender of this Jacobin ideal in France. In this article, I will discuss the role of France's restrictive language policy through the prism of the CC's jurisprudence. Overall, I will argue that the CC made reference to the (Jacobin) state-nation concept, a concept that is discussed in the first part of the paper, in order to fight the revival of regional languages in France over recent decades. The clause making French the official language in 1992 was functional to this policy. The intriguing aspect is that in France the CC managed to standardise France's policy vis-à-vis regional and minority languages through its jurisprudence; an issue discussed in the second part of the paper. But in those regions with a stronger tradition of identity, particularly in the French overseas territories, the third part of the paper argues, normative reality has increasingly become under pressure. Therefore, a discrepancy between the 'law in courts' and the compliance with these decisions ('law in action') has been emerging over recent years. Amid some signs of opening of France to minorities, this contradiction delineates a trend that might well continue in future.


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