Favorite Treaty Reservation, Ever!

by Julian Ku

The NYTimes has a piece today on how Idaho’s refusal to implement the Hague Child Support Treaty is causing problems for the U.S. and for Idaho as a whole.  I hope to have more to say about this treaty later. For now, in looking at the treaty, I wanted to point readers to one of the more amusing U.S. treaty reservations I’ve ever run across.  In giving its advice and consent, the U.S. Senate made two reservations, one of which follows:

(2) In accordance with Articles 44 and 62 of the Convention, the United States of America makes a reservation that it objects to the use of the French language in communications between the Central Authority of any other Contracting State and the Central Authority of the United States of America.

The treaty actually allows a country to “object” to the use of either French or English and there is no doubt a serious purpose for allowing this kind of objection.  But there is something great about an official objection “to the use of the French language”.  Indeed, I am glad to see that the U.S. was not the only country to object to French for communications under this treaty.  It is joined by the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Hellenic Republic, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, Hungary, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Republic of Poland, the Republic of Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, the Kingdom of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in this objection.

As a long-suffering student of the language, I’ve often wanted to “object” to the use of French. I am glad the U.S. Senate (and all those other countries in Europe) share my Francais-phobia.


11 Responses

  1. In terms of treaty law, it seems rather dumb if, as you say, one can “object” under the treaty in any event — unless one must “object” by formal reservation.

  2. I can’t help but notice that the French (as well as Luxembourg) similarly objected to the use of English, which makes for good communication…

  3. I was wondering about the question Joel raises. If France objects to English and the US objects to French, does that mean they can’t talk to one another? Do they communicate in both languages and just ignore the one they don’t like? Perhaps they could try a third mutually agreeable language? It all seems pretty silly.

  4. I am sorry, but I think this kind of ethnocentrism undermines IL and State compliance. The Anglo domination that resulted from WWII is resented by a large portion of the world, and this only exacerbates it. Translations are cheaper than they used to be, and allowing this type of reservation permits widespread evasion and non-compliance. I suggest the reservation be changed to “and unofficial machine translated English” to permit rapid identification of issues only.

  5. I think Esperanto is still out there, isn’t it? Maybe the French and the Americans can use that to communicate.

  6. Monsieur Jourdain is not amused !

  7. As someone who lived in France for 17 years, I think objecting to FRENCH would be seen more as a lack of sophistication as FRENCH was the language of diplomacy and objecting to it is a clear indication of lack of civilization. Of course, I understand those who might disagree with me, but in my heart I have to look down on them because of their inability to appreciate the error of their ways due to their lack of sophistication and civilization. Don’t worry, we francophones are tolerant of the ignorant in humanity who are not blessed with the gift to speak the langue de Moliere.
    P.s. “Tout cela est subalterne”as De Gaulle would have said.

  8. Ah yes, the language of the French Revolution, the language of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the language of The Society of the Friends of the Blacks (Société des amis des Noirs or Amis des noirs), the language of Montesquieu, Diderot, Condorcet, and Mirabeau, the language of the French salons, the language of La Rochefoucauld…the French language is to be feared.

  9. Benjamin Davis, thank you for the good laugh! Have my “like”, kind sir! 🙂

  10. LY you are welcome!

  11. Ruth: no indeed.
    Ben: and the Normans who took over England brought the French language with them.

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