Friday 16 April 2010

The Leaking Union

The "dark hole of Brussels" with its "obscure institutions" and its "opaque political processes" has become a powerful if not the main image to characterise the political system of the European Union.

A lot of what is going on in the political capital of our Union remains unnoticed by a wider public, not just because old and new media do not show enough interest but also because a lot of the relevant political interaction and documentation is confidential or not easily accessible if you are not located in Brussels.

Leaks to the outside world are seldom and the institutions work to prevent them:
"The Secretariat is examining ways of marking the electronic version of all official documents automatically sent to each delegation to allow identification of the source of any leaks." (EU Council 2006)
During the presentation of Wikileaks by spokesperson Daniel Schmidt at the re:publica 10 social media conference in Berlin yesterday I was asking myself whether we might soon see a change.

I knew Wikileaks before they published the now globally watched video shot from an Apache helicopter in Iraq, but I didn't really care about Wikileaks because I wasn't aware of the size and the complex mechanisms that the platform has established to secure the leaking of thousands of documents from Kenya over Iceland to the USA.

I realised that I had never considered searching for EU documents that had been leaked to the platform, and I suppose many EU journalists haven't either.

Right now, the Wikileaks archives are offline, but as soon as they are back on track, European bloggers and journalists should start searching for the hidden treasures we haven't seen yet. I suppose we will be able to find one or another scoop, and if not it won't take long until those in or around the EU institutions who have access to important documents will start leaking them.

The advantage of the complexity of the European Union is that it is not just one large black hole but that it has so many possible access points that it offers so many little holes, so many brilliant opportunities for leaks. And there are so many diverse interests that one or another side will be willing to make certain developments public.

So far, the possibilities for those holes to be tapped were limited, but Wikileaks and other comparable platforms will allow to build the tubes that transport the leaked content to those who try to uncover the hidden, to show what is discussed and decided in our names behind closed doors, paid by our taxes and legitimated by our votes.

I am looking forward to the day when Wikileaks goes back online to see whether the Leaking Union is already a reality or whether it will become one very soon.

(updated with the citation in the 3rd paragraph on 20 April 2010)

Picture: / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


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