Friday, March 21, 2008

EU nomenclatura

Jon Worth wonders why Stavros Dimas was referred to as the "EU's Environment Chief" on the Today programme.
He’s actually European Commissioner for the Environment. Now would the same programme dream of calling John Hutton “Britain’s Industry Chief” or Hillary Benn “Britain’s Environment Chief“. No, of course not—they would be referred to by their correct government minister titles.
...

Of course it’s possible to see what’s going on here—an effort to make European politics understandable to the masses. I do wonder however whether some of the terms give the wrong impression. Of course there is a problem on the EU side too—why are Commissioners called Commissioners, rather than Ministers?

Well, I think that is easy to answer: under the British system, at least, being called a "Minister" rather implies that someone has been elected to the Parliament and then appointed as a Minister.

The Commissioners are, of course, directly elected by nobody: they are appointees. And, whilst I acknowledge John's point that the European Parliament can change legislation, the fact remains that only the Commissioners can initiate it.

Therefore, the word "chief"—conveying, as it does, some kind of supra-ministerial power—is actually quite appropriate; not only because the Commission is effectively senior to the EP, but also because EU law has primacy over national law.

As such, Stavros Dimas should really be referred to as "our Environment Chief". As such, I for one, welcome our new EU "chief" overlords....

4 comments:

Little Black Sambo said...

"Minister" also means "servant", something our ministers need to be reminded of from time to time.

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

Love your labels.

Jon Worth said...

And does Minister Digby Jones have any more legitimacy than Stavros Dimas?

Quite frankly though I wish the BBC and others would just call them Commissioners.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Jon,

Nope, D-J doesn't have any more legitimacy.

Let's face it, this government is pretty rocky legitimacy-wise...

DK