Euro-Speak: A Language Made In Brussels

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A look into the origin of the language that is designed to bind Europe

EuroEuropean Commission, European Year of … these are all expressions that have come to form an integral part of the language of European citizens and have become a main stay of the political language used in EU member states. What may surprise many readers is that these everyday terms were actually created as part of the process of EU integration from the combination of EU legislation and the speeches of EU politicians and Eurocrats. The so called euro-speak, originally created at political and diplomatic levels in English with some French terms,  has now found its way into mainstream media.

There are terms that have emerged mainly from the legislative process and formal written communications such as the principle of subsidiarity, proportionality, the abbreviation CAP referring to Common agricultural policy and the Schengen agreement. It could be a Sisyphean task to try to classify them all, yet they are part of the specialised administrative and legal terms that constitute the concepts closely associated with the EU, so therefore have become an integral part of the language that binds Europe.

If you look at the webpage of the EU there is a huge and extensive glossary of terms, 233 currently, officially listed on the page of the EU. Opting out, infringement procedure, third energy package, harmonisation etc. are all terms that have come into the lexicon of European political language along with a host of other newly emerged abbreviations, neologisms, portmanteaus and named directives. The durability and popularity of these terms depends whether they refer to a persistent phenomenon and whether it will affect the whole EU community, or only certain member states or societal groups. Another factor affecting the take up and use of new terms is the way the media is propagating them. For instance the hot topic of Net-Zero Industry Act has given birth to another commonly used term namely ‘net zero emission’. ‘Critical raw materials’ was coined with the new legislative proposal. ‘Gender mainstream’ and ‘greenwashing’ are other language creatures result of the legsilative work of the EU.

So therefore ‘net zero emissions’, ‘gender mainstream’ and ‘greenwashing’ are all examples of euro-speak, a language created as a means of communication to express a specific EU reality, though one which its critics sometimes call Eurofog or Argot de Berlaymont due to the inaccessibility and unintelligibility of the language to an outsider.

The constant emerging of terms sometimes causes confusion and misunderstandings among European citizens, however the phenomenon of creating terms within the European institutions is inescapable and it goes hand in hand with the process of the integration and construction of the Community. The specialised language of the EU is part of the identity of the EU organisation and therefore plays an important role in its functioning and continuation.