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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
EU effusion 'lost in translation'
Angela Merkel and Jose Manuel Barroso
Some nations are more emotional than others, and keener on the EU
Sharp-eyed professors have spotted what they say is evidence of "political translation" of the EU's Berlin Declaration, agreed at the weekend.

Both the Danish and English versions downplay the emotional language of the original German, they say.

Instead of saying that the EU member states are united in "happiness", they say that they have united "for the better", or "for the common good".

An EU spokesman said the texts had been agreed by the national governments.

"We, the citizens in the European Union, are united zu unserem Gluck ", the German-language version of the declaration reads. The phrase can be rendered in English as "united in our fortune/happiness".

By contrast, the English-language version reads: "We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better".

While in the Danish version, the word "Gluck" has been replaced with "vor faelles bedste" meaning "for the common good".

Gushing terms

Professor Henning Koch from Copenhagen University told the Danish paper Politiken the low-key translation could be no coincidence.

BERLIN DECLARATION
Berlin Declaration
The unnatural division of Europe is now consigned to the past
We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better
We preserve in the European Union the identities and diverse traditions of its member states
We are united in our aim of placing the EU on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009

"It would come as a big surprise to me if the translators are bad at German. So then it's a political translation," he said.

Gushing and emotional terms were something Danes feared, he added.

Professor Rudinger Gorner, head of the German department at Queen Mary, University of London echoed Professor Koch's point, looking at the English version of the Declaration.

He told the BBC that the German phrase used in the declaration implies that it is "really a fortunate thing we have united".

"The English rendering certainly downplays the meaning", he said. "There's no doubt that if one wanted to express the German sentiment, one could do so."

He said there was also a subtle difference in that the English version "suggests something happening in the future".

"Yet again, it's an attempt on this side to downplay things wherever possible."

Compromise text

Mats Persson of the Eurosceptic thinktank Open Europe, which focuses on EU reform, said that it was clear there had been a struggle over the translation of the declaration.

"It is quite common that people use the maximum room available to accommodate shades of meaning," he said.

"The Swedish version also reads quite awkwardly. The Berlin Declaration is a reflection of a political compromise and this is reflected in the translations."

A spokesman for the EU Council said all the translations of the declaration were "official" ones and had been agreed by the national delegations of the member states.


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