The central issue

In passing, the Economist hits on a rather crucial problem with the entire European project.

So are national politicians silly to worry about being obliged to toe an imaginary EU line? Sometimes, yes. One diplomat this week marvelled that anybody could see a treaty article inviting people to support the “good functioning” of the EU as a legal instruction. It is, he said, a statement of political opinion—it means as much as European politicians agree it means.

But this is an unsatisfying answer to politicians in a place like Britain, where laws mean what they say, and are not deployed as mere slogans. If sweeping declarations in the charter about outlawing discrimination are not meant to overturn national policies, a Pole asks, why are they there? “When we ask what all these big words mean, everybody tells us: nothing special, don’t worry. But we should avoid this kind of rhetoric.”

Some of us are used (or were used, considering the recent spate of badly written laws) to laws saying what they mean, and being tested on what they mean in court. We’re unsure of how to take laws that ramble on a bit about grand ideals while not actually stating, definitively, what the fuck they’re on about.

Other EU countries do it differently, and are used to lots of flamboyant laws that consist of hundreds of lines of waffle for every word of law.

So how, pray, does anyone propose to write laws that satisfy both sides? How can you write a law that is both honest and overly grand? One that is legally sound with one that has aspirations to literary greatness? One that is common law versus one that is Napoleonic? How does one mesh chalk and cheese?

More to the point, why would you? Differences breed competition, competition breeds progress. Trying to put a one-size-fits-none law over the whole of europe can’t do anything but flatten the differences, and thereby flatten the things that make us what we are and define where we’re going.

Once again, I arrive at the biggest question I have about the EU and all the laws it brings forth: Why?

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