The horrors of Eurospeak

Can you explain qualified majority voting, horizontal measures and of course - gender mainstreaming? Talking about the EU is confusing. Chris Cummins spoke to Jackie Davis, editor of the Brussels magazine, E-Sharp.

European Parliament,  photo: European Commission
"When I first came to Brussels over a decade ago everyone kept asking me - did I speak the language? I thought they meant French but I quickly discovered that what they really meant was Euro-speak because without it you simply can't get by here."

Why is it all so confusing? Well European decision-making is of course a complicated procedure - but it's not just that.

"I think the problem is politicians spend so much time coming here to ministerial meetings talking to each other and using the jargon that when they go outside and they're talking to journalists and the public about it they forget that actually these words don't mean anything. Take one classic example, the way we describe the expansion of the EU on May the 1st to take in ten more countries. This is normally referred to in the EU as enlargement, which to me sounds like a medical condition, something rather nasty that you should see the doctor about. I think people just get so used to bandying them about that they don't stop and think about it."

The whole sorry story is having consequences. It's dampening our love for Brussels.

"It really is totally confusing and bewildering for the public and I think politicians are waking up to the fact that part of the reason for disillusionment with the EU is that people are just turned off by it because they can't understand a lot of what is going on because of the words that are used."

That's why the EU is holding a conference in Ireland to work out ways of making the EU more accessible and cutting through all that red tape.

Photo: European Commission
"If we're going to make people love Europe, or at least like it, then first of all they have to understand what we're doing and we mustn't either bore them to death or confuse them beyond belief."

What you may cry, another meeting, another conference, isn't that all European officials do anyway? They of course say no but cynics still believe that European Union officials are pedants only interested in measuring the bend in bananas. What can the men and women in Brussels do to break down these pre-conceptions?

"This constitution is being written in clearer language. The aim is to make it something you or I could read, but I wouldn't recommend it. Also politicians just need to think about what they are saying when they are talking to the public."