Saturday, 22 November 2008

European Community and European Union

Nothing irritates me more than sloppy use of language, especially when it's lawyers who are being sloppy.  Whenever I hear mention of, or read about, European Union competition law, or trade marks, or directives, or regulations, or whatever, I cringe.

Some people seem to think that the European Community ceased to exist when the Union was created.  Far from it.  The Community (the merged Community, that is, previously the European Economic Community, the European Coal and Steel Community, and the European Atomic Energy Community) is the organisation with the power in the competition and single market areas (as well as lots of others).  It is one pillar of the Union, along with the Common Foreign and Security Policy pillar and the Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters pillar: when (if) the Lisbon Treaty comes into operation the three pillars will be subsumed into the Union, which will save a lot of time and effort talking about cumbersome titles - but until then it is utterly wrong to talk about European Union trade marks, competition law and so on.  Especially for lawyers to do so!

As for the so-called European Court of Justice (or to give it its proper name the Court of Justice of the European Communities - it seems appropriate that it should retain the plural form of the last word of its name given that it still has jurisdiction over matters arising under the three original treaties), don't get me started - and I am not a non-EU European.  I wonder how the Swiss, or Norwegians, or other Europeans, feel about the instition adopting a short name that impliedly givves it jurisdiction over them?


Grahnlaw said...

You have every right to express your opinion, although I think that one can adopt a more pragmatic view, using changing terminology depending on the context (as in speech and writing generally).

The European Union (EU) has become the main headline, with official documents and (some) lawyers using more exact terms.

Peter Groves said...

Thanks, Grahnlaw, and I take your point - to resist the way the meaning of words and expressions changes is futile at best. But what works for journalists (and see my next posting for a rant about them!) doesn't necessarily work for lawyers. We operate by using words with great care, and this is symptomatic of a lowering of standards which suggests a lack of intellectual rigour, not just sloppy writing. But I'm not going to win this one anyway, am I?

Grahnlaw said...

Peter Groves,

Your question was the answer with regard to winning the battle, but you can console yourself that you have elevated yourself above the level of sloppiness of ordinary mortals.


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