Are we sure we need independent experts?


As my political awareness has been increasing I have realised how important it is to have independent experts. Whenever you go deep into a controversial, political issue, at one more or less quick moment, often the crucial  question that comes to your mind is:  do we have independent experts we can rely on to tell us what comes the closest to the truth and therefore can help us defining what action we should take to solve the problem?

The European Union, of course, agree with this view and have created EU independent bodies of experts in various areas that are serious and respected. One of them is the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).

 As it is stated in its constitutive legislation, voted by the EU in 2001: "With respect to the processing of personal data, the European Data Protection Supervisor shall be responsible for ensuring that the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, and in particular their right to privacy, are respected by the Community institutions and bodies".

Since 2010, twice the EDPS have expressed concerns about the effects of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on our fundamental rights. Its latest opinion dates back from the end of April.

If an expert body, recognised and supported by our EU institutions, assesses on two separate occasions that ACTA is a risk for our fundamental rights, I feel inclined to take this assessment into consideration, and I am sure many of my fellow EU-citizens would follow the same logic.

Therefore, I am astonished and even worried by the statement made by the European Commission representative at the European Parliament' committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on 26 April, to comment on the EDPS opinion on ACTA. It rejects the EDPS's "wrong" conclusions, on the ground that they are based on "erroneous assumptions" and "selective analysis" (watch the debate from 11:48:48 from the presentation of the EDPS opinion and the reply of the European Commission representative from 12:13:00).

How can the European Commission explain how it was able to communicate that the EDPS's concerns about the impact of the agreement on fundamental rights are "wrong", while at the same time having submitted the agreement to the European Court of Justice because it needs to know whether ACTA is indeed compliant with fundamental rights? 

Also, the European Commission checks that the Member States have similar independent data protection authorities, whose expertise they should acknowledge. But here it seems the Commission does not consider in its priority to follow the independent authority they themselves have at their disposal... This weakens the position of the institutional framework the European Commission is proposing for the Member States and thereby undermines their own ambitions in data protection.

The EU should show the right way, be exemplary to its citizens, and if not at least show some logics in its way of being able to assess whether a future law (ACTA) is right or not. By undermining the EDPS expert's voice, the European Commission representative at that particular meeting did not do so. His statement, according to the European Commission, is not its official position. "You are damn' right!" and we will help making sure it will never be.

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The experts are valued as such until they say something that does not match the desires of those in power, and all of a sudden those in power "knows better".

Good old arrogance, pure and simple.

Keep their pants down!

Today EDRi advocated in a hearing on ACTA in the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs that the Commission is demeaning the democratic process and demeaning itself by acting this way. The representative from the European Data Protection Supervisor seemed very dismayed that the Commission chose to disregard its opinions in the way described above, citing the ACTA agreement as being, from a data protection perspective, unacceptable.

The Commission responded that ACTA is not dead, and an intellectual property rights lawyer invited to give her opinion before the committee declared the critique against the agreement presented by the European Consumer's Organsation, EDRi and the European Data Protection Supervisor "irrational".

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