Saturday, 21 February 2009

European Parliament: Officers or Bureau?

In addition to its President, the European Parliament elects ‘its officers’ from among its members.

Interestingly, the treaty in English seems to refer to a different Chapter of the Rules of Procedure than other language versions.

It is hard to see that this difference could lead to harmful results in practice, but perhaps the European Parliament helps to bring the English text of the treaty in line with the other language versions next time around.


Treaty provisions

The first paragraph of the current Article 197 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) provides that:

The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its Members.

In the Treaty of Lisbon this paragraph is formally deleted when Article 197 TEC is amended; formally because exactly the same wording appears first in Article 9a(4) of the Treaty on European Union in the original version and then as Article 14(4) TEU in the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty.



The generic English term ‘officers’ seems to leave everything to the European Parliament, but interestingly other language versions give the impression that the drafters had something a bit more specific in mind.

Here are six language versions for comparison, chosen for the sake of convenience from Article 14(4) of the Treaty on European Union as published in the consolidated version of the Treaty of Lisbon (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115):


4. El Parlamento Europeo elegirá a su Presidente y a la Mesa de entre sus diputados.


(4) Das Europäische Parlament wählt aus seiner Mitte seinen Präsidenten und sein Präsidium.


4. The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its members.


4. Le Parlement européen élit parmi ses membres son président et son bureau.


4. Euroopan parlamentti valitsee jäsentensä keskuudesta puhemiehen ja puhemiehistön.


4. Europaparlamentet ska välja sin ordförande och sitt presidium bland sina ledamöter.


EP Rules of Procedure


Chapter 2 of the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure (16th edition, October 2008) is called Officers of Parliament.

In Spanish the Chapter heading is ‘De los mandatos’, in German ‘Amtsträger des Parlaments’, in French ‘Mandats’, in Finnish ‘Parlamentin toimihenkilöt’ and in Swedish ‘Uppdrag’.

In Spanish Chapter 3 is called ‘De los órganos y funciones’, in German ‘Organe und Aufgaben’, in French ‘Organes et fonctions’, in Finnish ‘Parlamentin elimet ja niiden tehtävät’, in Swedish ‘Organ och uppgifter’.

In five of the sampled languages the treaty provisions, Article 197 TEC and Article 14 TEU, refer to the “praesidium”, “Bureau” or words to that effect in Chapter 3. Only the English treaty text, which employs the word ‘officers’ seems to refer to Chapter 2.

It is hard to imagine any harmful consequences arising out of this, because the ‘officers’ form the ‘Bureau’, but five treaty versions are consistent in what they refer to, whereas the English treaty text is not:


Articulo 21 Composición de la Mesa
Articulo 22 Funciones de la Mesa


Artikel 21 Zusammensetzung des Präsidiums
Artikel 22 Aufgaben des Präsidiums


Rule 21 Composition of the Bureau
Rule 22 Duties of the Bureau


Article 21 Composition du Bureau
Article 22 Fonctions du Bureau


21 artikla Puhemiehistön kokoonpano
22 artikla Puhemiehistön tehtävät


Artikel 21 Presidiets sammansättning
Artikel 22 Presidiets uppgifter


After this linguistic detour we are going to look at the officers and the composition of the Bureau.

Ralf Grahn

1 comment:

  1. Surely the long-term solution of the language problem, in the European Parliament, must be a non-national language!

    This is why I would plea for the Esperanto solution.

    If you have time please check the global language, Esperanto website on


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