December 19, 2014
I can explain!!!
After almost 30 years in Brussels, many of them spent on a sort of “policy death-watch”, I have to say that I have never seen things this bad. Were the Nigels or the Marines in Europe to succeed in giving Brussels back to the Belgians, most of us still active in the Bubble would be sad, but we would be kidding ourselves if we said we hadn’t seen it coming. So this year the Risk-Monger has been a bit more provocative than normal … because he sees it coming. In 2014, I put forward several points for reflection that are now part of my Christmas wish-list for further discussion next year. If these points get picked up in 2015, maybe the European institutions will resemble less the “Ministry of Silly Walks” they are now so vibrantly emulating.
So here are three ideas I would like to see considered in the New Year:
1: Bring back scientific advice to the heart of the European Commission
The Risk-Monger looked on in horror as a group of activists lobbied hard and killed the idea of the President of the European Commission having someone to consult on the quality of the scientific evidence. Why? Because NGOs like Greenpeace and Corporate Europe Observatory did not agree with the Chief Scientific Adviser, Dr Anne Glover, a biologist, on the scientific evidence supporting GMOs. It makes perfect sense with hindsight – facts can interfere with emotional activism so campaigning against scientific evidence, although medieval, suits their strategy. Given how Commission President Juncker is neither a chemist nor a biologist, and is surely not capable of deciphering credible science from activist science, the Risk-Monger thought it timely to demonstrate to him how activist scientists can manipulate policy (on a simple subject like bee-health) and remind him how badly he needs an adviser. It has only been a month, but so many in Brussels sadly miss Dr Glover (although I suspect she does not miss the cesspool that Brussels has become).
2: Create a transparency register for journalists
Many activist campaigners are running around Brussels calling themselves journalists or documentarians, and since there is no standard or registry, they are allowed to interview officials and publish campaign literature or activism without anyone being any wiser to their deceit until it is too late. In 2014 I exposed the French activist, Stéphane Horel, who had been working for and paid by Corporate Europe Observatory while she was preparing a one-sided lobbumentary on endocrine disruption. Many people fell for it and were shocked to see how horribly they had been portrayed in her activism. A transparency registry for journalists would help public officials and individuals know who exactly they are meeting for an interview and what risks they might be taking, not to mention strengthening trust in the journalism profession, which by the way is practically dead in Brussels. By the time Politico arrives here in the spring, they will find a press corps that thinks moderating events or clicking on slides is work. (Given how the Risk-Monger’s research over the last month was treated in this town, he is making a special personal request to Santa for a shiny new blog-host.)
3: Make EU funding to NGOs conditional on them having and respecting an ethical code of conduct
Isn’t it rather sweet that government officials and industry representatives have and enforce ethical codes of conduct while groups like Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace not only admit to lying, breaking the law or misrepresenting themselves, but they actually brag about it? The European Commission spends millions of taxpayer euros each year funding NGOs to run activist campaigns without any obligation to behave in an ethical or civilly respectable manner. If EU citizens woke up one day and discovered this, how would they feel (see above statement on how investigative journalism is dead in Brussels)? The Risk-Monger’s Christmas would be merry if the Commission would go further and exclude such ethical violators from participating in consultations. I am always astonished how Greenpeace can moralise to EU officials and industry representatives according to their self-defined ethical standards and then treat their young, innocent volunteers as fodder for their PR.
By the looks of things, 2015 will not be a better year for Brussels, but the Risk-Monger feels pretty confident that it will be interesting, thought provoking and beguiling (for him at least). I will be taking some family and reflection time this holiday season before gearing up for some heavy lifting (including a two-week spring speaking tour in New York, Boston and Washington).
I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and an Interesting New Year!