chapter  3
20 Pages

EU Multilingual Law: Interfaces of Law, Language and Culture

WithColin Robertson

This chapter takes a look at EU multilingual law from perspectives of law, language and culture. The aim is not to examine substantive issues, but instead to reflect on some of the influences which operate on EU law from a viewpoint of interfaces. The law of the European Union is a relatively new phenomenon, as it has been in existence for only 60 years. The idea of states voluntarily agreeing to allow themselves to be constrained by laws and policies created through international institutions over which they have limited control has not been widespread historically. The ‘raw materials’ in terms of methods and ideas to construct this new system of supranational law must come from somewhere. One can explore the sources of ideas and study the ways in which they have been woven into the ongoing story of European integration, of which EU law forms a major strand. The obvious approach is to study books of history on European integration and the EU. However, there is another approach, which is investigated here, and that is to reflect on some of the underlying processes and mechanisms, seen in essentially functional terms. Here one is looking not so much at who did what and when but rather more at basic methods and techniques, viewed impersonally. It is a technical point of view. In it the particular identities of the players and the particular historical details are placed in the background, to be replaced by attention to structural issues and operational methods and choices. Similarly, it is not a case of analysing how certain theories, in particular economic theories, are applied through EU law, but rather of reflecting on the tools that are used to that end, in particular the tools of law and language. As a living organism EU law is a site of engagement of many influences and selecting the additional viewpoint of ‘culture’ represents an attempt to consider ways in which competing values and interests that exist within and between Member States come together and are mediated through the process of creating EU legislative texts that receive widespread support. The primary focus of attention here is the EU legal text, and the aim is to reflect on interfaces that act on the text and influence its formal structure, its contents and its language. The primary focus is on legislative rather than court or other legal texts.