By treaty, the European Parliament can only meet in full session in Strasbourg, France. But most of the E.U.’s operation is in Brussels. So one week a month, the whole apparatus — legislators, support staff, lobbyists, journalists and everyone else, 10,000 people in all — travels five hours to Strasbourg. It’s as though Congress could only pass laws one week a month — and it needed to do it in Cleveland. But this parliament has 751 members. Oh, and it can’t propose legislation — it can only approve legislation that comes from the non-elected European Commission. The cost of maintaining two parliamentary seats is estimated at $200 million a year.
3. Overreaching regulation
In Britain, the famous “bendy banana” came to be a symbol of Brussels regulatory overreach, when Brussels set guidelines that bananas should be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature.” Those advocating a British departure from the E.U. said Britons could decide for themselves how bent their bananas could be.
4. Lack of accountability
The big decisions in the E.U. get hammered out behind closed doors, whether it’s inside the European Commission or at meetings of E.U. leaders or ministers. Unlike lawmakers in national legislatures, where much of the sausage-making happens in the open, E.U. leaders bargain in private, then announce their decisions afterward, leaving journalists to play detective to figure out who advocated in the closed conclave.
5. Ignoring rejections from voters
The E.U. has a long history of absorbing national ballot-box defeats, then moving onward to achieve roughly the same result through other means. When voters in France and the Netherlands rejected an E.U. constitution in 2005, E.U. leaders came back two years later with something called the Lisbon Treaty, which implemented many of the same changes but through a different legal path that didn’t require checking with voters first.
6. A Babylon of costly translations
Depending on how you read it, you might find the E.U.’s tendency to translate nearly everything it does into all 24 of its official languages a testimony to its internationalist glory or a wasteful use of resources. By E.U. custom, all public E.U. documents are translated into every language. All high-level E.U. meetings are the same way. The European Commission says it employs 1,750 linguists, 600 full-time interpreters and 3,000 freelancers.
7. Unnecessary bureaucracy
Every E.U. member state gets to appoint a commissioner, whose job is a bit like a cabinet secretary in the United States — a politician charged with administering an agency. But as the E.U. expanded, it needed to dream up new cabinet agencies to match the number of members. So it has one commission for international cooperation and development, another for trade, another for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, another for economic and financial affairs, and another for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and small and medium businesses.