Declaration of Interest or Statement of the Obvious?

December 11, 2014

Blog posts are a bit like newspaper columns: it is tempting to indulge in negative criticism. And, with administrations like those in Westminster and Brussels, it is not a temptation that I often resist. So I came to the {Article 29 Working Party’s Joint Statement:}, adopted on 26 November but published only last week, with the vague intention of burying Caesar rather than praising. It seemed like they could not even decide if they had produced a Statement (pp 1 and 4) or a Declaration (p 2). I anticipated bland; I expected statements of the obvious; I assumed it would be written in that special version of English that Brussels seems to love (which is no more English than my sprouts are Belgian).
Of course, what I anticipated and expected was there, as was the odd lapse into Brussels English, but the Statement is of real interest. I genuinely recommend that you read it and consider commenting on it. We are asked to use the dedicated web site available at for comments.

While I do not need to be told that ‘Technology is a medium that must remain at the service of man’ (how does one send a raspberry online), the Statement’s content on surveillance and what it describes, in somewhat superior fashion, as ‘European values’ include useful steers.

The catch is that the Article 29 Working Party has limited influence – and when the chips are down it has no actual power. If I am forced to confront the question raised in my title, I would be tempted to apply a politician’s approach: the Statement is of real interest but it has limited value because the big beasts in Brussels and in Member States can ignore it.