Monday, 14 January 2008

Sack the spin doctor!

Someone must have given the European leaders bad advice on how to present the Treaty of Lisbon to the public.

The drafting technique is a deliberate choice. Therefore, I will quote one example of the amendments made by the Reform Treaty to the existing EU Treaty:

31)”Article 14 shall be amended as follows:

(a) in paragraph 1, the first two sentences shall be replaced by the following sentence: "Where the international situation requires operational action by the Union, the Council shall adopt the necessary decisions.";

(b) paragraph 2 shall become the second subparagraph of paragraph 1, and the other paragraphs shall be renumbered accordingly. In the first sentence, the words "to joint action," shall be replaced by "to such a decision," and the words "that action" shall be replaced by "that decision". The last sentence shall be deleted;

(c) in paragraph 3, renumbered 2, the words "Joint actions" shall be replaced by "Decisions referred to in paragraph 1";

(d) the current paragraph 4 shall be deleted and the remaining paragraphs shall be renumbered accordingly;

(e) in the first sentence of paragraph 5, renumbered 3, the words "pursuant to a joint action, information shall be provided in time to allow," shall be replaced by "pursuant to a decision as referred to in paragraph 1, information shall be provided by the Member State concerned in time to allow,";

(f) in the first sentence of paragraph 6, renumbered 4, the words "failing a Council decision," shall be replaced by "failing a review of the Council decision as referred to in paragraph 1," and the words "of the joint action" shall be replaced by "of that decision";

(g) in paragraph 7, renumbered 5, the words "joint action" in the first sentence shall be replaced by "decision as referred to in this Article" and in the second sentence by "decision referred to in paragraph 1".”


In spite of the fairly insignificant amendments, the drafting technique leads to time consuming comparison for anyone trying to fix the exact wording of the Article. Even after checks, mistakes are probable. Clear amendments could have been written once, centrally by the Council, instead of the unnecessary multiplication of work all around Europe caused by the reader-unfriendly drafting.

With even a token of regard for readers, Article 14 TEU and many others like it could have been written ‘in extenso’. The end result in Article 14 EUT, does not differ much from the present Article 14 TEU, but it looks a lot like the Constitutional Treaty. Surprised, anybody?

It is as if everyone interested in European affairs should be punished for wanting to read, understand or use the Reform Treaty.


The drafting technique would not have caused major problems, if the Council had published reader-friendly consolidated versions at the same time, in every official language of the EU. But the real disaster became clear by the Council’s deliberate refusal to produce timely consolidated versions of the Lisbon Treaty, the Union’s most important document in 2007 and 2008 and, perhaps, beyond that.

Has the presentational technique eliminated the phantasmagorical allegations against the contents of the Lisbon Treaty? Not as far as I know, but a lot of ordinary citizens have been alienated by the antics of the Council.

There is a lot more re-engaging to do, now.

If anybody wants a schoolbook example of how not to communicate with the public, it is here. I hope it finds extensive use in time for the needed replacements, namely:

Somebody’s spin doctor should be sacked!

Ralf Grahn