Thursday 27 August 2009

i2010, ICT, and more bullshit language from the Council of the European Union

Some two weeks ago, I discussed the i2010 assessment report on the development of ICT in the European Union, criticising the empty language of the Commission and the encryption of shortcomings through this means.

Now, I saw that the Council of the European Union is working on
"Council conclusions on the future of ICT research, innovation and infrastructures"
which appear to be in the drafting stage as you can see from the PDF document (dated 26 August 2009; previous version from July here) linked above.

Since the revised text mentions a "post i-2010 Strategy for promotion of information society", I dared to take a look at these conclusions, concluding myself that the Council seems to be even worse when it comes to bullshit bingo language.

Example 1:
"HIGHLIGHTS that ICT is one of the main drivers of economic growth and social change and, as such, plays a vital role in the economic recovery, enabling Europe to emerge from the current crisis faster and stronger than before;"
Such statements have no added value at all. They are empty, superficial, useless. They mix the obvious with speculation, but they yield no particular consequence. The only thing they do is distracting the reader from the overall emptiness of the text.

Example 2:
"NOTES that Europe has strong industrial and technology assets in ICT notably in telecommunication equipment and services, embedded ICT and business software and can build on its underpinning strengths including its scientific excellence, the exceptional standard of education of its graduates, world class high-quality infrastructures, and the world's largest ICT market"
If the Council members or the secretariat had read the i2010 report of the Commission, especially the accompanying staff working document (linked here), they would have known that this is as true as it is wrong, mixing the obvious with a bending of the truth that the EU is seriously lagging behind in crucial areas.

Example 3:
"STRESSES that better integration requires closer articulation between European, national and regional actions and implementation in variable configurations at different levels"
Why do you need to stress this in the context of ICT? "Closer articulation" is needed in ALL policy areas of the European Union, one could even say that this is the main goal of the EU. Or, if this is an important point, why not making it stronger:
"STRESSES that overcoming the uncoordinated approach of member states represented in the Council regarding ICT development would be the basic condition for any substantive progress in ICT-related matters"
Example 4:
"INVITES the Member States to amplify their support to ICT research and innovation"
Wow, the member states are "invited". This is diplomatic bullshit language. Why not "URGES", if this is in fact an important issue?

Example 5:
"seek further incentives for the more rapid emergence of innovation-friendly markets, including an extended use of public procurement of innovation, support to pilot projects, and involvement of users at all stages of the innovation cycle"
The only true political statement in this sentence is the encouragement for "public" (!) procurement, and such a proposal is indeed interesting because it would mean that the Council considers public investment in ICT a way to foster its progress - but such an important statement is hidden in a bullshit bingo sentence, including "innovation", "pilot projects", "involvement of users", "innovation cycle", all more or less empty phrases.

Overall, the draft conclusions as they stand today have only limited added value, and the policy consequences that would follow their adoption would not bring about any substantive changes - in fact, the only interesting term in the whole paper is "Green ICT", so far unspecified and thus as empty as the rest of the text.


Nils Woerner said...

And I thought that I am sometimes getting too agitated over a subject. :)

But yes, diplomatic language can be irritating sometimes. Maybe there would be some terms between the extremes "invites" and "urges" (your proposal sounds too strong for my ears). Something linke "advises" or "points to the importance of".

And by the way: It's an interesting question if our generation will ever find a political discourse rather than diplomatical speech in EU Council documents...

Julien Frisch said...

Yeah, I knew that someone would take up this "URGES" thing... :-) But I didn't want to be diplomatic, so I overstretched this a little.

And regarding the political discourse: If they don't do it - we will!

Anonymous said...

"LAGGING behind" instead of LACKING behind :)

Eva Peña said...

Hello Julien,
I just got to know your Blog today. I love it, though I disagree with some of your views. But not this time.
I agree with you in this post. Not just EU-jargon but political language tends to be irritating and deliberately confusing.
We are used to that in Spain. Spanish politicians just talk this way...
This kind of speech can be misleading. Now let's find out if they do it on purpose.

Julien Frisch said...


Mistake corrected. Thanks for your vigilance. :-)


I also only found your blog yesterday or today, when people started coming from your blog to mine after linking me. I have already planned to translate your blog post on the Spanish EU Council Presidency, but didn't have the time yet.

Regarding the disagreement on certain views: I am more than happy that this is the case, because we need to get more thorough discussions in the euroblogosphere, which is only possible when there are at least some differences.

In this regard, I am looking forward discussing with you - I'll try to refresh my Spanish so that I can also comment your blog posts... (and those of La Oreja and of Europe@s).

Insideur said...

I see where you are coming from, but I think that these seemingly platitudinous sentences can be useful.

As someone with some experience of lobbying, I know that various interests will take a sentence like one of those you quote and take it into a meeting with Commission officials or elsewhere in Brussels or the Member States, and use it to apply pressure for it to be translated into action that suits them.

In other words, if the Council commits itself publicly to certain concept or logical approach to a subject, that commitment can be used by civil society to keep them accountable.

I don't pretend for a moment that this works well as a general rule in practice, but it's a dynamic that does exist and can be useful.

Anonymous said...


Guess you might know already that the public consultation is already open (until November 16):