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Hedging and modality versus strident claims and the apparent absence of doubt
In everyday speech we talk about ‘hedging your bets’ when you reduce your risk of serious loss by placing money on at least two possible results, the principle being that the gain made on one bet will at least partially compensate for the loss made on another. The expression is then extended beyond the domain of gambling to all transactions or dealings in which one tries to be prepared for two or more outcomes. We also say that people hedge when they do not make a firm commitment or do not give a direct response, and in this case, the word has mildly negative connotations as it implies that our interlocutor is not being entirely straight with us.
When linguists talk of hedging, the word is stripped of its negative connotations and assumes the status of a technical term. For Bloor and Bloor, ‘Hedging is a linguistic avoidance of full commitment or precision. It is a vague but useful term covering a range of phenomena.’ This brief definition provides no information as to why people resort to hedging, and for this, we can turn to Machin and Mayr: ‘Hedging can be used to distance ourselves from what we say and to attempt to dilute the force of our statements and therefore reduce chances of unwelcome responses.’
During the present crisis beginning in 2008, people worry about rising inequality, weaker social protection and the divergence of income levels between the core and the periphery of the European Union (EU). The financial crisis has been blamed on inequality (Rajan 2010; OECD 2015) as poor strata of the population (in the United States, but also in Europe’s periphery) borrowed funds to acquire housing or maintain consumption levels in spite of low and stagnating wages. On the side of lenders, high inequality contributed to an overhang of savings as the rich have a higher propensity to save, and investment in the real economy stagnates in the face of weak demand.
It is national parties which select the candidates who stand in European elections, and who run the campaigns designed to bring about their victory. They may increasingly use the literature of the transnational groupings, but they fight primarily on national rather than European issues and they interpret the outcome very much in terms of what it means for their standing in domestic politics. Party politicians attend EU gatherings as national figures, advancing their countries’ interests. They will be influenced by their position on the political spectrum, those who are left-inclined being more concerned with social justice, protecting employment and supporting stronger environmental action and those on the right is more concerned with deregulation of business, free markets and open trading policies. But these ideological leanings usually take second place to arguments based on national interest and the leaders’ perceptions of the demands of the political situation ‘back home’.
THE EU CHARTER AND ITS APPLICATION AND INTERPRETATION
The EU’s New Human Rights Dimension
Rights and Principles provided for by Title III of the EU Charter
Title III on Equality contains seven Articles, from 20 to 26: equality before the law (20); non-discrimination (21); cultural, religious and linguistic diversity (22); equality between women and men (23); the rights of the child (24); the rights of the elderly (25); and the integration of persons with disabilities (26). The obviously eclectic type and nature of the provisions (rights, principles, social goals) may, in their totality, target a certain level of social equality and cohesion, but concrete definition of such a level depends very much on the meaning given to them by the institutions, authorities, administrative and judicial bodies responsible for their application and implementation.
i. Article 20 CFREU: General Principle of Equal Treatment