Saturday, June 30, 2007


EU legislation unrenamed

Under the EU's now defunct constitutional treaty, regulations and directives were to be renamed laws and framework laws respectively, apparently in the name of jargon-busting (inter alia).

I note with relief from the presidency conclusions of the recent EU summit that the reform treaty now being mooted will revert to the terminological status quo:
the denominations "law" and "framework law" will be abandoned, the existing denominations "regulations", "directives" and "decisions" being retained.
It may be that in other languages the proposed terms would have represented an improvement on the existing situation. But that would certainly not have been the case in English. For one thing, the term directive is by now reasonably familiar and to replace it at this stage with an equally obscure but unfamiliar term (framework law) would serve only to confuse and alienate further, presumably the opposite of what was intended.

The same applies to the proposed replacement of regulation with law. Only here there is an additional source of confusion. The English word law covers the ground of two words in many of the other languages (e.g. droit and loi in French).

The point was raised in a report on the constitutional treaty by a select committee of the British House of Lords:
A further difficulty is created by the use of the term, in English, "European law". This hardly adds to the clarity. While the German and French texts may translate well into "europaisches Gesetz" and "loi européenne" the term does not work in English. In English, "laws" derive from many sources (including Parliament, the courts, local authorities, the judges and, not least, the Union). Calling a rule "a law" does not indicate its origin or status compared with other laws. "European law" and "European laws" in current parlance simply means law made by or emanating from the Union. Yet another problem, at least in the English language, is the recognition that European law is not restricted to European legislation but also includes principles laid down by the Court of Justice.
It is often observed how dominant the use of English has become in international contexts, even in the professedly multilingual EU. But it is not always appreciated how superficial this ostensible primacy can be.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?