New German EU minister struggles with English | From the Fringe | DW | 28.01.2010
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From the Fringe

New German EU minister struggles with English

The European Union's new energy commissioner, Guenther Oettinger of Germany, has been the brunt of jokes about his fluency in English even before taking up his post in Brussels.

Guenther Oettinger at his confirmation hearing

The EU's energy commissioner could brush up on his English

A video circulating on the Web featuring Guenther Oettinger - until now the state premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg - pokes fun at his strong Swabian accent and his rugged syntax.

"I'm sure there's a good partnership next years between me and my new function for the issue to bring energy in a full sense to the European level," Oettinger, told journalists after his confirmation hearing at the European Parliament two weeks ago when asked about his suitability for the energy commissioner post.

In the European Commission, English is one of three official working languages, the other two being French and German. The EU also employs an army of interpreters and translators to ensure that information is correctly transmitted to its appropriate destination.

Oettinger himself hasn't appeared to be bothered by the jabs at his language skills. After all, where he comes from, people even pride themselves on not being able to speak High German. At least that was the message of a humorous ad campaign the state recently ran.

Oettinger said it was "no problem" for him and people "should do what they want." He did, however, promise that once he was in Brussels, he would bone up on the special English terms he would need in his capacity as energy commissioner.

As of Thursday afternoon, Oettinger's language video had more than 1.3 million clicks on YouTube.

Editor: Nancy Isenson

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