Tag Archives: European Council

European President

The EU is often accused of being too complicated and difficult to understand by the European every-man.

One aspect of this critique is that every institution is headed by a President, and wouldn’t it be great if things were more like in a normal country, where the Parliament is headed by a Speaker, the government by a Prime-Minister, and the state – if it’s a republic – by a President?

Not all European countries have this neat linguistic differentiation of roles. Italy is just presidenti all around, and Croatia next door are just one predsjednik after another. Even in countries that do make distinctions, things can be complicated. The Third and Fourth French republics had a President of the Council (sounds familiar?) instead of a Prime-Minister, and the PM of Greece (Πρωθυπουργός) is also called the President (Πρόεδρος) of the Government, using the same word as the Head of State or the Speaker.

EU President.png

But I must concede that a re-branding of the main institutions could go a long way to making the European Union more intuitive to the average Joe, and thus less stressful. So here are some suggestions:

  • President of the European Parliament” should be called the “Speaker“. This is a no-brainer for English, but it could be problematic in other languages.
  • “President of the European Council” should become “Chairman of…” because his role is one of mediator more than a decider, and the Council itself is actually the Head of State of the Union, collectively. One problem that could arise is that in some language -like Romanian – there is only one word used for both president and chairman
  • President of the Commission”. While I like this as it is, given the position’s prominence, alternatives could include “Head-Commissioner”, “Chief-Commissioner” or “Commission Head” in situations where the above Council President cannot be referred to as “Chairman”.

All in all, I think the linguistic imperative should be to separate the titles, more than make them identical in all the Union’s languages. Having the EuroParl President be called “Speaker” in English and “Marszałek” in Polish might not be problematic, and it might give the listener a sense of familiarity.

Note: The aesthetics of the visualization were inspired by my recent trip to the British Museum. I have wanted for some time to make a more artsy viz. Feedback always appreciated.

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The History of the European Council

The EU’s Collective Head of State, the European Council held its inaugural meeting on 10 March 1975. In reality, the institution has its roots in the “Summit Meetings” or “Summit Councils” that started with the Rome Summit of 1961. To this date, 182 formal Council meetings have been held (not counting Eurozone Summits, but including Informal ones).

Unlike the European elections, where the makeup of the Parliament changes every 5 years, the composition of the Council changes every time elections in a member state bring about a change in government or president. As such, the Council is in a constant state of flux, especially when it comes to its political leanings. I wanted to track this evolution visually, to get some sense of how the Council evolved.

EC_Summit_Timeline
Click for full size

But the above chart was in fact a preliminary study for a dynamic map (inspired by similar ones featuring the political affiliation of US Governors throughout history).

European Council History

[EDIT] – YouTube LINK to the dynamic map in video format.

Some things I’d wish to highlight:

Interestingly enough, in 1961 the Charles De Gaulle’s party was a member of the “Liberals and Allies” group in the European Parliament (it switched to the conservative “European Democratic Union” in 1965).

“Independents” are PM’s/Presidents who are not party members, while “Non-Inscrits” (“Unaffiliated”) are PM’s who are members of a party that isn’t/wasn’t member of any EP party group, or whose MEP’s sat in multiple groups, essentially denying the party as a whole a political group.

In 2009, Fianna Fail switched from the Conservatives to the Liberals in the EP, even though the Irish PM stayed the same. In such a case, the color of the country changes as well.

There seems to be a consistent shift from the christian-democrats to the liberals in the last five years.

Greens tend to be center-left usually, but the only PM from a Green party was Latvia’s Indulis Emsis whose party is rather conservative, so I chose to position it centrally on the chart.


PS. Happy Europe Day!

Chart and map made in Python. (Updated 24.06.2017)

Etymology of European Union Institutions

Some etymology maps with the names of the main EU institutions. Obviously the “European” part of the name is left out.

1. The Council(s)
EU Council of Ministers
The most heterogeneous of the 3, there are three main etymologies spread across the continent: the Latin “Concilium”, the Germanic “Rad” and the Slavic “Savet” (which is indeed related to ‘Soviet’) with a few other interesting words dotting the map.

European Council
Although in most languages the European Council and the Council of the European Union are called the same thing, there are a handful of languages where the name of the two institutions differ, namely Estonian, Bosnian and Azerbaijani.

2. The Commission
EU Commission
Much less diverse than the Council, we find, as often is the case in these maps, that Icelandic, Hungarian, Armenian, Basque and Greek do not fall in line with the majority. Interestingly enough, the Breton word for the Commission is related etymologically with the Welsh word for the European Council.

3. The Parliament
European Parliament
An even more conformist situation than above, here even Hungarian and Basque use the dominant word of “Parliament”. It’s worth pointing out that often the national legislatures have a much higher diversity of names.

Made in Inkscape. Base map from Wikimedia Commons. Data mostly from Wiktionary and Wikipedia.

For more such maps, visit /r/etymologymaps on reddit.