In an op-ed in Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet today, Commissioner Neelie Kroes made an unprecedented statement: politicians in Europe need to understand that net liberty is important, and heed the Pirate Parties, or lose their jobs.
Commissioner Kroes is in Sweden for the EuroDIG conference, and took the opportunity to write an op-ed for one of the major Swedish newspapers. While she does what any politician must do according to protocol in this op-ed – namely, praise the host country’s unique abilities – she also says a few things that have never been seen in public at that level before.
People in the European Commission, the highest administration of the European Union, are called Commissioners. It’s roughly the European-Union-level equivalent of a minister. Commissioner Neelie Kroes is responsible for the Digital Agenda.
In this op-ed, she writes, “The rise of the Pirate Parties has shown that net liberty is an important issue, one that our politicians must take seriously if they don’t want to lose their jobs.”
This is the exact message we’ve been sending for the past six years – I’m happy to see that it has now penetrated to the highest echelons.
Specifically, she writes in the op-ed,
The Internet has been an economic success, but on political levels, it has been less so. To the young generation, the fight for net liberty is what the green wave was for the 1968 generation and the baby boomers. The Arab Spring, the ACTA debate, and the rise of the Pirate Parties have shown that net liberty is an important issue, one that our politicians must approach with the utmost seriousness if they don’t want to lose power.
It’s kind of interesting that she chooses a “power is important, so you should care about net liberty” approach, rather than “We’re Europe, we carry the legacy of the Enlightenment, so we care about freedom of speech no matter where it happens”. Still, this is the path that we calculated would work six years ago: attack and challenge the power, achieve and attain the civil liberties.
Unfortunately, after having had this published, reports tell me that she went on to speak at EuroDIG about how the existence of child porn necessitates limitations to freedoms of speech and net liberty (blah blah, yeah, we’ve heard it before and that doesn’t make it more true). When challenged with “the commission is just being paranoid”, Commissioner Kroes chose not to comment. Dear Commissioner Kroes — talking the talk is not enough; in a world where reputation is everything, you also need to walk the walk.
Hat tip to Jacob Hallén.