The European Parliament: It’s Doing Democracy

Nobody likes the European Parliament, and that’s probably why everyone had such low expectations about the “telecoms package” it was meant to pass. There was all kinds of horrible gunk in there – the French government, for a start, had outsourced its policy to the owner of a chain of record shops, who decided that all ISPs should be required to cut off service to anyone they were told was downloading illegal music. Then, for some reason, British Conservative MEPs joined in; it looked like we were on our way to a continent-wide mandate for deep packet inspection, with various horrible lobbies getting access to the take.

Not any more. Hardly anyone’s bothered reporting this, but as was the first to report, it’s been successfully castrated, using a selection of targeted amendments. The “three strikes” proposal so dear to Nicolas Sarkozy and friends has been struck out, Malcolm Harbour’s attempt to pass everybody’s clickstream to the record industry killed off, and a guarantee that surveillance can only begin with the approval of a court inserted. There’s more (in French) here;

en vertu du principe selon lequel aucune restriction aux droits et libertés fondamentales des utilisateurs finaux ne doit être prise sans décision préalable de l’autorité judiciaire en application notamment de l’article 11 de la charte des droits fondamentaux, sauf en cas de menace à la sécurité publique où la décision judiciaire peut intervenir postérieurement

So you can’t intrude on the rights of end-users without getting a court order, except in case of a threat to public safety, in which case the courts can strike down your decision retrospectively. Great. It’s a cracking piece of work all right, especially for the various tiny and unreported campaign groups who dragged it on deck and the various Green and Leftist MEPs involved. Like Danny Cohn-Bendit.

The package was supported by the EPP, the conservative group in the EP, and the worst things in it were their ideas. The EPP has a significant majority; it’s well worth pointing out that flipping a prestigious piece of legislation like this in the face of a working majority just doesn’t happen in the House of Commons, dominated as it is by the whipping system.

So who’s left to cry, other than monopoly-minded lobbyists and spooks? The blogosphere’s own Tim Worstall, it turns out. In a spectacularly idiotic piece published in The Register, he takes the expert advice on public international law of woman-hating nutbag UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom and concludes that this statement means you’re not allowed to use Google.

“End-users are able to access and use services, including information society services, provided within the Community.”

His argument, if the word can be applied, is apparently that “Roman law” blah blah…but here’s the problem. It doesn’t say that you’re allowed to use them, does it? There is no value judgment in there. Strangely, nobody in the night-haunted tyrannies of the rest of Europe has ever found this a problem, either. For example, I’m able to stab the next man on the street; but Timmeh’s logic would imply that this makes it legal to stab the Prime Minister, as I haven’t…whatever. This is so stupid and intellectually dishonest it just makes me feel tired.

But you have to cut him some slack. After all, typing “Britney Spears sex tape” into his spam blog must get tiring. For the Register, well. I still remember when it was a reasonably useful news source; more recently it’s declined into publishing arsewit climate change denial bollocks and rehashed ECHR-bashing from the Sun.

The people who actually did the fight on this occasion, La Quadrature du Net, deserve your thanks, Tim. But that’s in French, by the way.

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About Alex Harrowell

Alex Harrowell is a research analyst for a really large consulting firm on AI and semiconductors. His age is immaterial, especially as he can't be bothered to update this bio regularly. He's from Yorkshire, now an economic migrant in London. His specialist subjects are military history, Germany, the telecommunications industry, and networks of all kinds. He would like to point out that it's nothing personal. Writes the Yorkshire Ranter.

6 thoughts on “The European Parliament: It’s Doing Democracy

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  4. Just sometimes the EP does the right thing and shoots down the stupid commision proposals. Like software patents. Just sometimes. You know, there
    are people in the EU who may vote for anti EU-parties for the EP
    (for instance communists), although they have no sympathy for them in general, on the basis of a very solid argument: 99.9% of what the Commision proposes is bad, so having an MEP who consistently votes down Commision proposals is actually the safest thing, given that MEPs don;t ask their constituents how to vote.

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