Tuesday, April 26, 2005

EU Despotism

WSJ Europe (subscription required) has a more on the EU Anti-Fraud Squad that was run by Joseph Biden's hero. As well as being corrupt, the EU turns out to be a classic despotism - suprise, surprise. Sadly, there doesn't seem any legal way to fix it.

In March last year, Hans-Martin Tillack, a German journalist who writes for Stern, had spent two years exposing a story of alleged fraud at the EU's statistical agency, Eurostat, in which millions of euros of public funds were siphoned off into secret bank accounts. Then, one morning in Brussels (my emphases):

...he woke up metamorphosed from a whistleblowing journalist into the target of an accusation from the EU's antifraud office, Olaf.

His computer and diaries were seized and he was questioned for hours by the Belgian police without access to counsel. More than a year later, his files and diaries are still in the possession of the police, and last week the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, denied his request to retrieve those documents and deny the European Commission access to his personal records.

Mr. Tillack's travails began when an EU spokesman, Joachim Gross, said he'd heard that Mr. Tillack had paid EU officials for certain documents, Mr. Tillack recounts. He went to court in Germany to have Mr. Gross barred from repeating the allegation on the grounds that it was baseless, and won. But Mr. Gross returned to court to argue that as an EU official at the time, he was immune from prosecution in national courts, and had the judgment reversed. And so it has gone for Mr. Tillack ever since.

The Court of Justice in Luxembourg says it cannot act to protect his documents from the European Commission because it is a matter for the Belgian state. He cannot take Olaf to court in Belgium because it is an EU institution. Under Belgian law, the commission, as a party to the case, has a right to request access to his files. But Mr. Tillack, who has been charged with no crime and is not officially under investigation, is not a party to the investigation and therefore has no access to his own files.

EU Serf is well named.

I'm working on a post on successful strategies for busting despotisms. There are good solutions for fixing them in the US and Brit without breaking our institutions. But I haven't found any lawful fix for the EU's interlocking, deeply corrupt and extra-legal flavor of despotism.