Watch your EU language! Euro-babble confuses public

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Mar 25 15:57:27 UTC 2006

rom Monsters and

Watch your EU language! Euro-babble confuses public

By Shada Islam and Leon Mangasarian
Mar 24, 2006, 19:00 GMT

Brussels - It is perhaps the European Union's biggest challenge. How do
you explain the 25-nation bloc's complex workings in a way which makes
sense to ordinary people? With public support for the EU sagging across
Europe, leaders have been promising for years to shear the bloc's texts
and communiques of confusing Euro-babble. But they haven't been very
successful. The EU's own website even includes as section unblushingly
titled 'A plain language guide to Eurojargon.'

It explains to mere mortals the meaning of terms like 'acquis
communautaire', 'subsidiarity' and 'rendez-vous clause' which baffle even
seasoned eurocrats and hard-bitten reporters. Insiders are also critical
of the heavy verbiage. Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, in an
interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, scolded the EU for using
ponderous and obtuse language to sugar-coat unpalatable compromises.
Calling for states in Western Balkans to be given a chance to join the EU,
the straight-talking Rupel warned the bloc not to play games by offering
the troubled region second class membership.

'Imagine a Serbian politician goes to a village ... on the Bulgarian
border somewhere ... and says 'look, if we behave, we shall get an
association and stabilisation treaty',' said Rupel rolling his eyes over
the EU's sub-membership treaty policy. 'They don't know what that is.
They don't have the faintest idea,' he said. Sheer incomprehension is
often the public response to EU documents, which must be agreed by all 25
member states and often end up with convulted formulations taking into
account 25 national sensitivities. A ponderous and uninspiring 125-page EU
constitution, torpedoed last year by voters in France and the Netherlands,
was a poster-child for language which fails to inspire the broad public.
The failed treaty's preamble says it draws 'inspiration from the cultural,
religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, the values of which, still
present in its heritage, have embedded within the life of society its
perception of the central role of the human person...' EU texts also have
a grab-bag nature with each member state seeking to insert pet projects or
ideologies. The intentions may be good, but this means a summit communique
often contains clauses which appear contradictory. And most EU
declarations are far too long. The classic case of doing the EU splits
pits pro-market economy Anglo-Saxon and northern European member states
against countries like France which favours a bigger government role in
the economy and is often accused of being protectionist.

A communique for the present EU summit is a textbook example of this and
it's obvious at first read which sections were French inspired and which
were inserted at the behest of London. Admitting the bloc's 2000 'Lisbon
Strategy' - a master plan aimed at making the EU the most competitive
world economy by 2010 - needs an overhaul given its failure to achieve
results, the text makes a series of curious non-binding suggestions.
'European values can underpin modernisation in our economies and societies
in a globalised world,' declares the summit communique.

What exactly European values are or how they will help the economy to take
off is not revealed by EU leaders. No concrete policies or figures are
provided for the curious citizen. Instead, this is followed by what appear
to be British inspired clauses calling for 'creating a more favourable
business environment' and then an apparent French demand that moves for
growth must promote 'social cohesion in compliance with European values.'
A further caveat in the communique is that EU economic growth
must be 'environmentally sustainable'.

Seeking to combine growth with greenery, the text makes a series of again
non-binding 'lines for action' including 'exploration of specific
actions to bring about more sustainable consumption and production
atterns at the EU and global levels.' The catch-all end of the
communique includes a series of issues allegedly discussed by leaders
including a 'European Pact for Gender Equality', a call to give 'all
children equal opportunities, regardless of their social background' and
support for a 'European Pact for Youth'. And EU leaders even inserted a
new bit of euro-babble to their declaration: 'flexicurity'.

Got it?
 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

 Copyright 2003 - 2005 by

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list