Every week, European Union institutions and their leaders churn out dozens of documents and public utterances of all kinds. Legal regulations, legislative proposals, green and white papers, reports, resolutions, statements, speeches, etc. It piles up. One of their peculiar properties is the very distinctive language in which they are written or spoken.

The language of the European Union, at first glance, attains an extraordinary density using fixed constructions – various phrases, slogans, sayings – that are, with minor variations, endlessly recycled. Some of them are encoded in the primary legislation, part of which originates in key programme documents adopted, for example, in connection with the so-called Lisbon Agenda and Europe 2020. They are words that seem to have hardened into solid slabs, which using the cut-and-paste crane of the computer keyboard allows the quick erection of any kind of structure in writing or speech.

Among the most popular pre-fab “panels” is that concerning sustainable development based on a highly competitive social market economy aiming at full employment and social progress, the fight against social exclusion and discrimination, smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and the European social model...

Hackneyed, platitudinous rhetoric

Even in places where the most hackneyed platitudes are absent, the language of the EU excels at a considerable stiffness and is stamped by rhetoric. For example, the Commission document entitled the Single Market Act (2011) contains a noteworthy sentence: “The common market – which has now become the internal market – has for over 50 years woven strands of solidarity between the men and women of Europe, whilst opening up new opportunities for growth for more than 21 million European businesses.”

The European Parliament, in its response to the Commission's Single Market Act echoed and, among other things, stressed the need to “put the citizens back at the centre of the single market” and further stated that “the single market offers a wide range of options in terms of employment, economic growth and competition, and that in order to exploit this potential to the full, a coherent structural concept must be created.”

In its 2007 White Paper on Sport, the Commission states: “Sport attracts European citizens, with a majority of people taking part in sporting activities on a regular basis. It generates important values such as team spirit, solidarity, tolerance and a sense of fair play, contributing to personal development and fulfillment. It promotes the active contribution of EU citizens to society and thereby helps to foster active citizenship.”

Pompous language

The EU institutions and their leaders particularly revel in pompous, extravagant formulations. Variously, the Union is described or projected as a “key player on the global scene”. It is a “European vision for mountain ranges” or the “European vision for the oceans and seas”. Other times, it seeks to “re-awakening the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe”, or heralds a call for “general political mobilisation for common, ambitious visions and goals.”

In the 2010 "communication" Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the Commission states: “The crisis is a wake-up call. [...] If we act together, then we can fight back and come out of the crisis stronger. We have the new tools and the new ambition. Now we need to make it happen.”

Many statements and texts demonstrate a true fervour for building. In the already cited White Paper on Youth, which incidentally boasts the subheading “Young People to the Fore[JJ1]“, we read: “The EU must take shape with the people of Europe. It is important that consultations on the way the EU will develop and on its form of governance should include the people to whom tomorrow’s Europe belongs.”

Moralising and solicitous tone

EU texts and speeches are frequently filled with dogmas and propositions delivered in a moralising and solicitous tone. It’s as if the authors would like to set themselves up as teachers in front of their students, or rather as enlightened elites who know best and who spread goodness and knowledge among the common people.

Reading or listening to some of the language coming out of the European Union, our middle-aged and elderly fellow citizens may feel they are time-travelling back to their childhood [in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic]. No surprise there. The characteristics of that language are traditionally associated with the left-wing worldview.

Our leftist parties have somewhat abandoned this tone, to distance themselves from the previous regime; in Western Europe, however, the situation is different. Language is just one of many proofs that the driving force behind the EU’s present direction is leftist, which the structures of the union are able to exploit to push through their political agenda.

The constant repetition of the same phrases and dogmas is, then, an expression of intellectual torpor, of the lack of a critical faculty, of indolence, of inertia, of wheels spinning in a rut. It is an illustration of just how much the Union’s elites lack self-reflection upon their failure to grasp that it is oversized ambitions that have plunged the Union into the crisis we have today, and of their inability to extricate themselves from the dead end of programmed centralisation.