You have the right to be complicated and bureaucratic

You have the right to be complicated and bureaucratic
: The European Union has released its Charter of Fundamental Rights and it is every bit as ineloquent and short-sighted at the EU constitution.

It’s very much a document of today, not tomorrow, for it is filled with today’s PR hot buttons, for example, “the prohibition of the reproductive cloning of human beings.”

That’s dumb on a couple of levels — first, no one has succeeded in doing this (French nutso space cults excepted) and second because by putting such a specific rule into your constitution and bill of rights, you then set up an equivalency by which everybody’s hot button will need to be in the constitution and bill of rights in the future. That is what legislation is for. Constitutions and bills of rights are for overarching, timeless principles.

: Unlike the constitution, this document does not, thank goodness, single out “churches” (thus by word choice excluding temples of various faiths and mosques). Instead, it has vague language of the sort you’d expect on a brochure for a cult: “Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage…”

: I find it interesting — just that — that the bill or rights “places the individual at the heart of its activities.” I would generally agree with that but I would note first that this does separate Europe from other cultures, which put the good of the community and the group first (or at least give it a line in a list of priorities). I also think that this is not how Europe operates; it has more rules protecting the good of the community over that of the indvidual than, say, the U.S.

: I’ll be this clause will lead to some fun court fights: “Everyone has the right to life.”

: Europe has made personal data into the boogeyman of the era, thus this clause: “Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her.” I predict that this will become the subject of wildly divergent interpretations and horribly complex regulation.

: The U.S. Bill of Rights says this, succintly and profoundly: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The EU Charter of Rights stretches that out into many vague clauses on freedom of speech: “1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. 2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.”

Can someone translate that? What does the “pluralism of the media” mean? And is the respect the same as a guarantee that no law shall be passed to abridge the freedom of speech?

Sounds mushy to me.

: “Everyone has the right to…join trade unions for the protection of his or her interests.” Does this mean police? The military? Children? Students? Watch out.

: Another terribly broad clause that Lawrence Lessig will be able to dine out on for a year: “Intellectual property shall be protected.”

: Discrimination is prohibited when practiced on the basis of “sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation” or nationality.

But there’s this but: “The principle of equality shall not prevent the maintenance or adoption of measures providing for specific advantages in favour of the under-represented sex.” AKA women.

: Children “may express their views freely.” Student newspapers are free! Right on.

: Note this: “In all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration.” That, too, is good. In the U.S. the rights of the parents often override the rights and interests of the child and that’s just wrong.

: I wouldn’t mind seeing this attitude here: “Everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment under the conditions established by national laws and practices.”

: Is this new in any of the member countries?: “Everyone who has been charged shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to


: Compare and contrast with the U.S. Bill of Rights here.