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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 July 2005, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
EU seeks to woo young Europeans
By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Brussels

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso
The EU is drafting in more translators to get through a backlog
The European Union is making a fresh attempt to explain to people what it is doing.

The vice-president of the European Commission Margot Wallstrom believes the biggest challenge for the bloc is to sell Europe to young people.

Meanwhile, hundreds of staff have been hired to help ease a translation backlog that developed after the EU admitted 10 new countries at once last year.

The rejection of the European constitution in the French and Dutch referendums made it clear to EU officials that their message was not getting through to the wider public - or if it was, that people simply did not like it.

A poll out this week showed support for the EU falling in almost every member state, including in the new ones. In the past, the EU was able to sell itself as a guarantor of peace and prosperity.

But most Europeans now take these for granted.


Ms Wallstrom says Europe has to prove its added value in new ways, listen to people's concerns and talk to them in a more direct manner.

"We have to find the language or the way or the examples to demonstrate that to young people, because they were the ones who would not vote "Yes" in the French or the Dutch referendums," she said.

Margot Wallstrom
We've not been efficient enough or good enough in communicating the EU
Margot Wallstrom
European Commission vice-president

"They are the ones who never came to cast their votes in the Spanish referendum, where, after all, there was a 'Yes' in the end. And they are the ones who are the most hesitant towards the EU.

"That is why I'm saying we have to be able to formulate that in a language by which we can reach out to young people today."

Better communication has become a political priority for the EU, but Ms Wallstrom's solution is still riddled with "Euro-speak."

Her "Action Plan to Improve Communicating Europe" lists 50 different points, such as the recruitment of communications specialists. This will be followed by a White Paper in the autumn.

According to a press release, its aim will be "to engage all stakeholders, setting out the policy vision and the initiatives to be undertaken in the medium and long-term, in co-operation with the other institutions and actors".

It is the sort of text that does not translate easily into any language, let alone into those of the new member states.

At press conferences at the European Commission, it can take two minutes just to flick through the 20 different language channels. It is a veritable Tower of Babel.

Last autumn, the European Commission said its legislative work had slowed down because of a backlog of some 60,000 pages that had not been translated into all the official languages due to a staff shortage.

Translation errors

More than 400 more staff have been recruited since, who have translated one million pages. To avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of paper, the Commission decided that key documents would be given priority for translation.

It also asked officials to draft shorter documents - 15 pages at most, rather than the previous average of 37. But there is no room for complacency, as more countries are lining up for EU membership.

With Bulgaria and Romania set to join in 2007, competitions to recruit new translators will begin this autumn, so that 60 of them can be employed for each language by accession time. Quantity is not the only problem.

The Commission has found that the translators from the new member states are not as good as expected in dealing with the subtleties of "Euro-speak".

The translation of the European constitution proved a particular challenge, with dozens of mistakes identified in the Polish and Latvian versions.

But with the constitution on ice, at least they now have an indefinite period of reflection to correct them.

Move to 'sell' EU to the French
29 Jun 05 |  Europe


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