EU Referendum has had a whinge at some lines in a European Parliament resolution by Estonian Socialist MEP Marianne Mikko that mentions blogs. Bruno Waterfield has also jumped on the bandwagon. Get a grip folks. What’s the first thing to do when someone in the EP sounds off? Look at what sort of document we’re talking about… In this case it’s an EP resolution – you can find the original report and a list of amendments here. It’s not legislation (i.e. not a Directive or a Regulation). It’s only a little bit more formal than an EDM in Westminster – and there 87 MPs have signed one complementing Fidel Castro.

Does Marianne Mikko know much about blogging? I doubt it. Did anyone in Brussels bother to lobby her about the parts of her resolution about blogging? Probably not, as any lobbyist who’s any good knows resolutions are rather a waste of time (and rather something for journalists and British eurosceptics to get into a lather about).

Plus if Helen and Bruno had dug a bit deeper they would have found, among the amendments to the resolution, amendments proposed by Maria Badia i Cutchet cutting back the text and saying only clarity is needed when it comes to legal protection for bloggers, and suggestions to delete the article about voluntary standards for bloggers from Ignasi Guardans Cambó and Claire Gibault.

So is all of this wise – having people in the EP talking about matters they don’t know much about? Probably not. Is it a danger to the blogosphere. No. In fact all of this very much in the same vein as – just as it’s easier to give €4 million to a project than it to get MEPs using it, so it’s easier for MEPs to propose and amend resolutions about blogs than it is for most of them to get round to writing blogs themselves – something that would be a much better use of their time.

[UPDATE – 31.07.08]
As if there were any doubt that this is the sort of thing that just the European Parliament does, have a look at what the UK Parliament is trying to do about similar things – moderating user generated content online in a Select Committee report. Seems politicians everywhere don’t really understand the internet.


  1. @Rick: you could (I suppose) argue that it’s a market issue. But anyway this was a non-binding report, and it was watered down to the extent that it was next to meaningless by the time the EP voted on it. I think this is buried for now.

  2. Even if the European Parliament had passed this, would the EU have the power to implement it?

    Surely the control of blogs is well outside the remit of the EU.

  3. This matter is a simple one.

    It has nothing to do with government, any government. We the people decide what we wish to say and to whom we wish to say it, and how we wish to say it.

    Nothing to do with Government, EU, EC or any of the rest of the ‘we know what’s best for you’ brigade.

  4. or even credibility

  5. Sigh. Untwist yer pedantic knickers Jeremy.

    My blog aimed to take up the dumb underlying mentality, prevalent in our ruling class, that public debate or life is dangerous.

    I did not say the EP, EU or anyone else was about to turn the blogosphere into a boring equivalent of a Strasbourg plenary session.

    Having said that, an EP Cttee report has a certain clout. The EAW is not be equated with some of the dingbat stuff – it struck a chord. It is about the underlying culture – what I took up.

    You’re RIGHT tho, I will wait for the plenary vote in July to write “the EP says”.

    It was a blog too – not that I set myself up as any example of journalistic cerdibility.

  6. Jeremy Hargreaves

    Do I have this right? A journalist for a serious newspaper (the Daily Telegraph) claims that a few lines in an EP resolution – which has not been voted on or approved by the EP, and there are amendments down to delete – is something that “so says the European Parliament”.

    I cannot see how this is even remotely consistent with any journalistic credibility.

    The European Parliament does not “say” this, any more than the EP “says” any other point of view that any of its members chooses to support.

    In plain language, the claim made, that the EP “says” this is quite simply untrue.

    And the journalist then goes on to call this an “amazing story”. Well, I suppose it might be, if it were true…

    Bruno’s defence above on the status of a resolution, that the EAW was once proposed in an EP resolution is also ludicrous. I daresay there are EP resolutions on the invasion of Iraq, but the idea that just because there has been an EP resolution on it, it is therefore inevitably the next big plot to subjugate us all, really doesn’t add up.

  7. You have to admit that it is a touch bonkers for Marianne Mikko to “warn against the concentration of the media in the hands of a few companies” and then to complain about unregulated bloggers.

    I – for one – don’t feel so concentrated.

    Perhaps if someone told her that American blogs had more European readers than European blogs do she would be even more worried.

  8. Jon,

    I believe in democracy and free speech, and I bow to no one.

    The MEP implied that bloggers ought to watch what they say, or else they will have their rights curtailed. I disagree.

    The internet has brought a revolution in communication – peer to peer communication which bypasses the political and corporate establishment. The freedom of the internet is a direct threat to both these vested interests. Both these groups are seeking to end this freedom.

  9. Trooper – give Ignasi his due. He has proposed a sensbile amendment to the report, and he’s also been gracious enough to comment on a blog. There are few politicians who would do that. It’s not worth attacking him for that.

  10. The freedom of the internet is under threat, and not from some jumped up little stalinist (that you Barrosophiles are happy to defend).

    As for the MEP Ignasi, “bloggers should not be so arrogant and act as if they belonged to a new internet elite”, coming from an MEP that is beyond irony. We’re not your slaves, pal.

  11. Ignasi – thanks for the comment. I am well aware that some MEPs do have blogs, and some MEPs do know what they are on about when talking about blogging. But it’s still a small number of the total of the MEPs in the Parliament. Plus I gave your position credit – saying your amendment was right!

    Please also bear in mind that I do know what I am talking about here. I have worked in the European Parliament, and now my main income is from website design and strategy for politicians, mostly in the UK. Bearing that in mind I reckon it’s quite justifiable to have a strong opinion on this matter.

  12. Indeed nice to see that their title has changed from “Malicious bloggers under scrutiny in new report” to “User-generated content and weblogs – a new challenge” 🙂

    Let me add a comment on one specific point raised in the report, namely “imagine pressure groups, professional interests or any other groups using blogs to pass on their message. Blogs are powerful tools, they can represent an advance form of lobbyism, which in turn can be seen as a threat” –> I am very much in favour of pressure groups posting their arguments on blogs than talking to MEP staff in a Cafe on Place Luxembourg.

  13. I can agree with you abou the not-so-big importance of EP resolutions such as the one you talk about. I can agree whith your description on how this debate took place, and the fact that there where other amendements. I cannot agree, though, whith your suggestion that MEPs do not know what the talk about when we debate about blogs and bloggers. Many of us do have a blog, and spend time reading other people’s blogs. Such as yours this morning. Bloggers should not be so arrogant and acte as if they belonged to a new internet elite.

  14. Article is being rewritten to correct “errors” and will be republished later today to “reflect more of the debate in the committee”.

  15. The article has gone with her quotes. Which is very silly, and may even be worth a comment in itself. Maybe they were worried that for once people weere reading something on their site?

    I defend the EP as institution myself, up to a point, and respect quite a lot of individual MEPs across the spectrum. My blog was basically giving a kicking to the suspicion with which some people in positions of authority treat the internet or free speech in general . A dangerous climate not to be lightly dismissed, even if some MEPs can be easily put out of mind.

  16. @Bruno – the legislation is still easy enough to find on the EP website.

    More generally – yes, what is written there is a bit foolish. But let’s be frank about it: MEPs are not chosen to represent their parties on the basis of whether they are going to be good and sensible legislators. There are a whole bunch of other factors in play.

    If you read what I wrote I am not defending the EP or what’s in the resolution, but equally I am not paranoid about it either.

  17. It is the proposal that makes the bashing easy. Has to be said, a big fat target. We will see. The European Arrest Warrant began with a non-binding report in the EP. Personally, I think it is highly unlikely, my blog points were about the dumb underlying mentality not a legal threat to the blogosphere. This is what should also be the main thrust of your criticism.

    Don’t be so defensive. The EP obviously is as the website article seems to have disappeared. Grown up pro-Europeans should defend internationalism and democratic rights not EU institutions or people who are often ambivalent, to say the least, about them.

    The purely paper judicial rights in the ECHR (read all the qualifications too) have not stopped a tide of anti-free speech legisaltion nationally, or at EU level. Current proposals against anti-terrorist incitement and the directive on racism and xenophobia (which contains a fascinating internet clause) have used UK thresholds – now the lowest in Europe – to criminalise speech.

    Seriously Ralf, do you really think I, or what I blog, is the agenda of ‘unelected media moguls’ such as the Barclay brothers? Grow up. What a pathetic come back. Good illustration of some of my points…

  18. Jon,

    Given free speech enshrined in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (binding even the United Kingdom and Poland) and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (to become legally binding for the EU and 25 member states), which Mikko’s report refers to, I would not be too worried about the call concerning blogs:

    “Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;”

    A bit confused and confusing, perhaps, but hardly worrying.

    But some, more or less undisclosed parties, might look favourably on diverting attention from the agendas of ‘unelected media moguls’.

  19. For many euro-sceptics it doesn’t matter whether its a Commission green paper, a directive in second reading, a resolution of the EP or just a simple statement by an MEP. It’s always the *EU*

    Makes the bashing quite easy ….

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