The EU is incomprehensible – POLITICO

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The European Commission’s reputation for using gibberish is second to none – and now the data confirms that perception.

The verdict is in from an analysis of 45,000 press releases: The Commission keeps things complicated, even compared to other governments.

This not only makes life more difficult for journalists, argues the author of the article, Christian Rauh of the WZB Center for Social Sciences in Berlin. It is also a political problem. The incomprehensible communications leave plenty of room for Eurosceptics and national politicians who want to blame Brussels for providing their own translations.

“Technocratic communication thus too easily plays into the hands of those who want to build the image of a Brussels elite detached from the European citizen,” writes Rauh in the Journal of European Integration.

Rauh analyzed data from 35 years of English press releases from the Commission, examining factors such as grammatical complexity and jargon.

For comparison, he also consulted newspapers, political science summaries and communications from the Irish and British governments. While it’s no surprise that the Commission has been more technical than the tabloids, national governments have also scored better on accessible language using normal words (eliminating the excuse that the Commission has to have looks geeky because it deals with technical policy issues).

On a measure of ease of reading texts, only political scientists scored lower than the Commission (as shown in the graph above). And when it comes to jargon, the Commission’s communicators have even outstripped the academics.

Some of this is intentional, Rauh notes. Messages on ‘…flexibility in state aid rules…’ for example, are about thorny talks with capitals, and ‘trilogues’, of course, are about talking to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU (or, to put it bluntly, national politicians), and the Commission often finds it difficult not to irritate capitals publicly while contentious issues are dealt with in private.

Looking at the amount of communications between 1985 and 2020, Rauh found that the volume of press releases per month had reached around 150 in the early 2000s, under Commission President Romano Prodi, with similar levels during both terms. by Jose Manuel Barroso.

However, the head of the first “Political Commission”, Jean-Claude Juncker, oversaw a sharp drop, down to around 50 press releases per month during his five-year term ending in 2019. (The trend of ‘Ursula von der Leyen as President of the Commission seemed to go back in the analysis of press releases until 2020.)

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