Londoner's Diary: Signor Monti wants the EU to steal English

Isn't it a bit late to suggest English as the official language of the EU?: Elsa Antonioli and husband Mario Monti (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images): AFP/Getty Images

FORMER Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has said English should be preserved as the main language of the EU, even though the UK was skipping out of the door.

Monti, also a former EU Commissioner and now a senator, was giving the keynote speech at the Foreign Press Association Media Awards where he suggested that the UK should be forced to leave one of its best products behind.

“The European Union, when the UK leaves, should take the decision of upgrading the use of the English language in European Union affairs,” he said at the dinner at the Sheraton Grand last night. The EU has always conducted itself in two languages at its core, French and English, with the additional 22 languages used as required. However now the UK is leaving, English’s automatic status isn’t a given.

Monti thought it should not just be used, but made the official tongue: “I think we should upgrade the ways we use English and it should become the language of the European Union. I exaggerate a bit — there should be a bit of French. It will be a very appropriate gesture to the UK. It would help us Europeans to become more competitive by using fewer languages.”

Not everyone in the room was happy about the suggestion. One member of the French Embassy in London, who was at the dinner, tweeted in protest. “Il y a des Français dans la salle [there are French people in the room] and they are quite surprised by your offensive against the use of French language in the EU! #Francophonie.” As if the European Banking Authority isn’t enough.


Last night’s Foreign Press Association Media Awards had Boris Johnson booked as the warm-up act to Mario Monti. The Foreign Secretary had to send his apologies — he was required to vote in the House — and sent a video message. Boris managed to speak up for those who practise journalism in hostile regimes: “We used to think barriers were breaking down just about everywhere, and more countries will inevitably come to benefit from a free media. Sadly that was a complacent assumption.” Shame Boris wasn’t there in person: the Reuters party present, and other journalists, would have liked to have buttonholed him.

Ooh la la — stats with a French twist?

Back to the French and that bid for the European Banking Authority. The Londoner flipped through the 22-page glossy report explaining why the French capital is the perfect new home for the once London-based institution.

But has there been some cherry-picking of the stats? The document states “three out of five Parisians speak good English”. Fascinant — and surprising to struggling tourists. It also boasts that it is the “first European global city in terms of economic attractiveness”, with housing 45 per cent cheaper, transportation 57 per cent cheaper and utilities 47 per cent cheaper than London. It cites the findings of Mercer’s 2017 Cost of Living Ranking. What curious figures.

The Londoner prefers to use the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living ranking that placed Paris seventh. London, meanwhile, had tumbled in the rankings from sixth to 24th in terms of costs.

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When Zeta-Jones takes the driving seat

Car crash: Catherine Zeta-Jones (Getty Images for Walpole)

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES hosted the Walpole British Luxury Awards at The Dorchester last night. She was particularly happy to give prizes to Bentley and Jaguar Land Rover. “I once crashed the car,” she said. “But I was so happy. It gave me the excuse to say ‘See, I should have bought British. I’m getting a Range Rover.’ And I got it. I’ve got a Bentley and a Land Rover. I’m just waiting for the Maclaren and the Aston Martin.”She confessed to being a petrolhead. “I never played with dolls when I was a kid,” she said. “I played with cars. I’m a bit of a boy like that really.”Catherine for Top Gear?


Benedict Cumberbatch went to the theatre last night with his wife Sophie Hunter to see Albion at the Almeida in Islington. They so liked the Mike Bartlett play that they went backstage to congratulate the cast. The run, which ends on Friday, has been acclaimed — star Victoria Hamilton has been nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award — so The Londoner anticipated a West End transfer. We hear there are no such plans. Catch it if you can...

Tweet of the Day:

Buzzfeed editor in- chief Janine Gibson is worried by Angela Merkel’s suggestion of holding another

Surprise of the day:

Oliver Dawnay tells the Telegraph his “grandaddy” Stanley Johnson had no idea he was on a reality show. “I assumed he would at least have researched the reality show before appearing on it”.

Lie back and think .. in the ballpit

Lottie Moss has picked up her sister Kate’s mantle in the partying stakes. She looked serene, neck-deep in white balls, at the Skinny Dip party x MTV at Shoreditch ballpit bar Ballie Ballerson last night. The hipster version of Millais’ Ophelia.

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