Monday, January 16, 2006

Losing and winning

Straight out of the Californian Mercury News - and 28 other newspapers – mostly local American sheets – comes the stunning news that "Fabris wins EU men's speedskating title".

This is based on a syndicated Associated Press report on the results of the European Speedskating Championships, datelined Hamar, Norway. Apparently, or so we are told, Enrico Fabris became the first Italian to win a men's title, finishing ahead of two Norwegians.

Actually, I don’t know who Fabris is, I didn’t know there was a European Speedskating Championship going on and frankly – I am sorry to say - care less. But what intrigued me about the report was its headline, repeated in many of the other papers, which refers to: "EU men's speedskating title".

This is a new one on me. We are used to the word Europe being used and a synonym for European Union but - bearing in mind that this is a truly European event – actually being held in Norway, which is not in the European Union, with Norwegian competitors – this is the first time I recollect the term European Union being used as a synonym for “Europe”.

In the use of Europe, meaning European Union, this is a battle we are losing. Many times have I railed against the confusion of the terms, and assiduous readers will have noticed that I refuse to refer to the European Parliament by its official title, always writing "EU parliament" – likewise the European Commission (although its official title is actually Commission of the European Communities).

The reason, of course, is that we wish the European Union to be seen for what it is, our central government – a political construct and not a continent – giving it more visibility, rather than hiding it behind "Europe". But if agency hacks are now describing Europe as the "European Union", we are into a whole new ball-game.

But, if all the bad news currently attributed to "Europe" is now laid at the door of the European Union – even when it applies to countries outside the EU - we could be onto a winner. The "colleagues" will have to start explaining that the European Union is not Europe, something we are always having to do.

Incidentally, one US site refers to Europeans as "Yurps". As Queen Victoria never said: "We are amused".


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