Every proclamation out of the European Union is a blend of fluffy self-congratulation and impenetrable prose. The point is to make the Euroreader feel vaguely good about himself, while having no clue about what he’s reading. In this, the gold standard was set by the Maastricht Treaty, which some scholars believe was written in Minoan Linear B, the language of Atlantis: unfortunately, all those who might understand it died 3,000 years ago.
But Maastricht only wins out because the EU Constitution, a veritable black hole of a document, was to everyone’s surprise rejected by the French (who thought it too ruthlessly capitalistic) and by the Dutch (who decided it was too anti-capitalistic).
Alas, the sequel to the EU Constitution has been drafted, and it surpasses even the original in opacity. My favorite bit is the Explanatory Statement, which from the title might be mistaken as an intent to explain. No so. It appears to be a claim to universal wisdom, written in such turgid style as to make it impossible to characterize the substance of the claim. Here are the first three paragraphs (those with delicate stomachs may wish to down the Maalox before reading):
1. It is now quite some time since the European Union ceased to be merely a common economic area and began to adopt shared values as well. It is progressing towards its aim of establishing a political community pursuing the illuminist ideal of the sublime dignity of man and it is gradually instituting political power-sharing amongst its Member States, cooperation amongst institutions and a legal system which is both cosmopolitan and people-centred.
What is genuinely fascinating about the European Union is this journey towards the individual and towards a legal system applicable to all peoples and all generations.
Within the area of freedom, security and justice, the free movement of persons is matched by the movement of judicial decisions through mutual recognition and also through police and judicial cooperation. The various fields of law (including criminal law) are increasingly being released from ‘feudalisation’ within the individual Member States in order to secure the common ideal of justice for all. The European Union is an extraordinary example of a political organisation which has learned to converge the particular interests of each Member State with the moral aims of an embryonic legal system.
So. The Europeans are no longer “merely” money-grubbers. Now they have values. What values? Well, how about the “illuminist ideal of the sublime dignity of man”? No? How about that triumph over “feudalization,” that was a big one. No? Okay, the EU practices “mutual recognition” and “cooperation” — wait, and it has learned to “converge” while moving “judicial decisions” through the bowels of “freedom, security, and justice,” I’m pretty sure that’s huge.
The EU — they’re just one genuinely fascinating bunch.
Curiously, most Europeans I have encountered have been dead set against universal ideals, which they think is a distasteful American superstition. They have in mind the utterances of President Bush, who on occasion has declared freedom to be “the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul.”
But what are those European values, so cosmopolitan, so people-centered, that we are now told will embrace to the entire human race unto the last generation? I wondered. Then, perusing the treaty in the hope I too could one day become an extraordinary example to myself, I came upon this idealistic bit of poetry:
4a. Any modification of a suspensory measure or of the obligations or instructions which constitute alternative sanctions by the issuing State’s competent judicial authority must be carried out with due regard to Article 5. In the event of a modification, the executing State’s competent authority may opt to take a fresh decision pursuant to Article 7(2) or Article 9(1)(i).
Now those are values any bureaucrat in the known universe can converge on.