Coping with Vague EU Legal Concepts
The notion of vagueness can be explored from both the linguistic and legal perspective. In light of the fact that in law vagueness is often deemed to lead to legal indeterminacy, i.e., a situation where a legal question has no single answer, vagueness has been a topic of interest among legal scholars. Observed from a linguistic perspective on the other hand, vagueness is regarded as a linguistic phenomenon in relation to ambiguity and polysemy. In the case of legal concepts, this basic sense of “vague” takes on additional features, most notably imprecision and uncertainty, which are detrimental to the application and interpretation of the law. Putting the focus on the implications of vagueness for understanding and defining EU legal concepts, this chapter departs from the premise that linguistic theories, and in particular terminology, can provide a better understanding of legal concepts and their role in the field of law. Despite the fact that legal language strives for precision, legal concepts that occupy the central position in legal language insofar as they express legal norms are often indeterminate (This is not to say that all EU legal concepts can be considered vague and indeterminate; however, this chapter concentrates on the difficulty of defining such concepts). This indeterminacy can be attributed to the need to apply legal concepts to different real-life situations in order to regulate the changing social circumstances. This is the case with certain concepts of EU labor law, such as worker. The meaning of “worker” plays second fiddle to issues concerning labor law and the free movement of workers in the EU enshrined in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter TFEU) (Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union 2008 O.J.C 115/47). As a cornerstone of Union citizenship, the freedom of movement of workers hinges on the meaning of “worker.” The recent economic and migrant crisis has once again put the spotlight on the importance of defining a worker and examining the benefits of having a worker status. Nevertheless, the latter concept is not explicitly defined in EU regulations. Instead, its meaning has been established by the Court of Justice of the European Union (hereinafter CJEU) in its settled case law. On hand of examples this chapter illustrates how terminology studies contribute to a better understanding of such open-textured EU concepts and provide adequate tools for coping with their inherent vagueness.
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