Saturday 20 August 2011

Eurozone ”economic government” lost in translation?

Did the (Twin Peaks) ”economic government” for the eurozone get lost in translation?

For the blog post Eurozone: Our new ”economic government” I watched the video of the press conference at the Élysée Palace, in Paris. Based on what I heard and saw, I stated the novelty:

Both leaders describe their proposals as ”economic government” (gouvernement économique, Wirtschaftsregierung).

Since ”economic government” has been used mainly by the French, whereas others have usually spoken about ”economic governance”, I corroborated this novelty by referring to the German press release 'Deutschland und Frankreich für europäische Wirtschaftsregierung', although the link now leads to another press release headlined 'Deutschland und Frankreich für starken Euro', which seems to have airbrushed ”europäische Wirtschaftsregierung” by replacing it with ”starken Euro” (which, incidentally, is another cup of tea).

I did not see ”Wirtschafsregierung” in the text, either, so a minor act in Ministry of Truth style seems to have taken place at the German chancellor's office.


In the blog post Merkel and Sarkozy: Eurozone letter to Van Rompuy, I referred to the French version of the press conference text:

According to the Élysée version, president Sarkozy refers to the letter to Van Rompuy with the joint proposal for

...un véritable gouvernement économique de la zone euro. Ce gouvernement économique sera constitué du Conseil des chefs d'Etat et de gouvernement.

In the German transcript only Sarkozy's second ”gouvernement économique” is preserved as ”Wirtschaftsregierung”:

...eine wirtschaftspolitische Steuerung der Eurozone vorzusehen. Diese Wirtschaftsregierung besteht aus den Staats- und Regierungschefs.

According to the two transcripts (and part translations), chancellor Merkel does not use the term ”Wirtschaftsregierung”, so the the use of term seems to rest on the airbrushed press release.

Letter to Van Rompuy

As I noted and wondered in the blog post Merkel and Sarkozy letter: My reading, the different ”original” language versions of the joint letter to Herman Van Rompuy employ different terms.

- des réunions régulières des Chefs d'État et de Governement de la zone euro : ces sommets se tiendront deux fois par an si nécessaire des sessions extraordinaires seront convoquées. Ces sommets constitueront la pierre angulaire du nouveau gouvernement économique de la zone euro.

- Regelmässige Treffen der Staats- und Regierungschefs des Euro-Währungsgebiets: Diese Treffen werden zweimal pro Jahr und wenn nötig zu außerordentlichen Sitzungen einberufen und dienen als Eckpfeiler der verbesserten wirtschaftlichen Steuerung des Euro-Währungsgebiets.

English is hardly the source language, but the target language:
- Regular meetings of the euro area Heads of State and Government: these meetings will be convened twice a year and when necessary in extraordinary session to act as the cornerstone of the enhanced economic governance of the euro area.


Grandiloquent to speak about ”economic government” to begin with, given the substance and lack of real democratic legitimacy of the proposals, although heads of state or government, more easily than outside observers, might perceive railroading the other EU institutions and eurozone arrangements on a permanent basis as part of their higher calling.

We have a joint letter, but which version should president Van Rompuy and the rest of us read with regard to the crucial term?

Has ”economic government” reverted to ”economic governance” outside France and the French language?

To set the record straight, could the Ministry of Truth (Berlin branch office) offer guidance?


On multilingual you find the new posts from 839 euroblogs, including on the debt and economic crises in the eurozone.

Ralf Grahn


  1. I think we must distinguish between officially and legally constituted governments (state governments) and non official governments. As seen in the letter, the official state governments are written "Gouvernement", while written simply as "gouvernement" it does not necessarily refer to an official or legal government. I always understood that Sarkozy and Merkel are both speaking of "gouvernement" (a kind of management), not of "Gouvernement".

  2. René Aga, Thank you for your comment. Still, I do not believe that using the capital G or not is enough to solve the issue about 'un véritable gouvernement économique', although states tend to use capital letters when they address their own and other states.

    However, I find it interesting that after the Paris summit German media seemed to have the impression that both France and Germany had agreed to "economic government" (Wirtschaftsregierung), whereas later the relevant press release was airbrushed and the letter in German is different from the French verison.

  3. dear mr grahnlaw,

    what is the point of trying to work out what they mean. no-one now believes merkel or sarkozy really wish to lead the EU on its current course never mind how to deliver a simple message on its behalf.

    however the real message from the people to the top is... faith is lost in the EU federalists.. so change the game.


    martin nangle

  4. Martin Nangle,

    Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy pretend to lead the EU and the eurozone on their present course, for what it's worth.

    However, their confederal view of a Franco-German directorate has little to do with a federal vision, which is inherently democratic.

    Little wonder that EU citizens are reticent, being denied the right to set the course of government at European level.


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