12 Stars

European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht recently faced serious communication issues. First, in a yesterday documentary by German broadcaster ARD he was portrayed as a clueless politician, when confronted with the figures of his own commissioned study. It was broadcasted before, my sympathies to him as indeed the purpose of these studies is to back, not to take decisions, and no one except evil German journalists takes “jobs and growth” jargon too seriously.

Today he responded with an op-ed contribution for the Munich-based Sueddeutsche quality newspaper.

headline: TTIP is fresh as beans
teaser: The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement is not dead – even though some claim the opposite. Why that is factual and important irrespective of public uproar, and what has been discussed in the sixth TTIP negotiation round.

Now, we know that headlines are usually not written by the authors, and probably the same applies to the teaser. Yet, this is how the op-ed starts, I try to emulate the German syntax:

A few days ago we concluded, mandated by the 28 EU member states and with general support from the European Parliament, the sixth negotiations round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). While in some places we read that the agreement would be “dead” already or negotiations would not make any progress, I can hereby confirm that its fresh as beans.

A German reads between the lines, it’s dead, it is time to walk away and leave it to the jackals. Or as Andersens famous tale once put it:

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last. The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.

Understood: Karel De Gucht wanted to express that the envisaged agreement makes progress and claims to the contrary are wrong. But why did his ghost writers actually write that underlying message down and place it that prominently? Are Karel De Gucht’s media advisors bad or do they conspire against him?

De Gucht’s media staffers are not insane though some may argue the opposite, in fact they are highly professional and deliver excellent work. They victoriously defend their Commissioner against the court of public opinion.

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