European Union Must Leave Its Kafkaesque World

Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night // Public domain

In my web browser, one add-on automatically disables pop-up “cookie” messages. The other one reverts Google Maps functionality to its pre-March 1, 2024 state.

Unfortunately, I cannot be programmed to change the carton of milk I drink from, and the plastic burr from the detached cap gets stuck in my lip now and then. But it is better than smearing milk on my nose every time I take a sip.

Yes, this comment is about European regulations. It started with curved cucumbers and today not a day goes by that I do not send a few swear words in the direction of the Belgian capital over some minor but all the more annoying interference in my life.

Somewhere high above, noble intentions such as privacy, space for competitors, or less waste are floating around, but at the end of the day, Kafkaesque bizarreness falls out of it. Fitted caps have no significant impact on our lives or the economy, except for inconvenience. But some issues do have such an impact. One example is the regulation of artificial intelligence, of which the whole Commission was loudly proud a few months ago. Currently on the table is ‘space regulation’, more specifically the forthcoming EU Space Law.  This set of laws is intended to lay down rules for the protection, resilience, and sustainability of the use of space.

A bit absurd, since the EU plays not second, but at best fifth fiddle in the world in both AI and the use of space. After all, among the 46 largest AI companies in the world by current capitalization, you will find, besides American and Chinese companies, companies from the UK, Israel, Brazil, Australia, or even the Emirates, but exactly 0 from the EU.

Space? In 2023, the European Union sent 3 payloads into space, the same as North Korea and only 1 more than Iran. The US sent 109, China 67 and even Russia was able to send 19 payloads. The new European Ariane 6 launcher, agreed back in 2014, is already 4 years late with its first flight.

The voices pointing to the EU’s overregulation, particularly in the areas of modern technology, are growing louder. But a comradely commitment to regulate less will not be enough to leave the Kafkaesque world. The Commission today is a gigantic organism of 30 000 officials whose job description is to create new legislation and thus ‘improve the world’. This will require a profound institutional change in the way the EU operates, a complete overhaul of the paradigm of how we view the common market, and centralized decision-making on European policies.

So far, however, only extremist parties have taken up the topic of “Brussels dictate” and are interpreting it in their way. A serious public debate on what to do next would therefore not go amiss before the European elections.

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