Monday, 17 March 2008

Fifth freedom? What about the basic ones?

The European Council was up to some grandstanding again at its spring gathering. The presidency conclusions brought us the following visions (Presidency conclusions, document 7652/08):


“In order to become a truly modern and competitive economy, and building on the work carried out on the future of science and technology and on the modernisation of universities, Member States and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a "fifth freedom" based on:
• enhancing the cross-border mobility of researchers, as well as students, scientists, and university teaching staff,
• making the labour market for European researchers more open and competitive,
providing better career structures, transparency and family-friendliness,
• further implementing higher education reforms,
• facilitating and promoting the optimal use of intellectual property created in public research organisations so as to increase knowledge transfer to industry, in particular through an "IP Charter" to be adopted before the end of the year,
• encouraging open access to knowledge and open innovation,
• fostering scientific excellence,
• launching a new generation of world-class research facilities,
• promoting the mutual recognition of qualifications.”

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Sounds fine, until you start thinking that Europeans are more than worker ants, toiling away to amass resources to be redistributed by politicians.

Four market freedoms of free movement are all right, but we Europeans are citizens, too. And when we pause to think about the European leadership in action, we come to the sad conclusion that they have cared little for our political and citizenship rights of late.

Are they the leaders who have shown no signs to open up the running for the presidency of the European Council or the High Representative for public scrutiny or democratic accountability?

Are they the leaders who profess the value of democracy both internally and externally, but show little signs of relinquishing the ‘managed democracy’ they have instituted at EU level?

Are these the same leaders who for months on end have stonewalled publishing the coming and now signed Lisbon Treaty in readable, consolidated versions, even if the amending treaty is the most important document to be produced within the European Union since 2004?

Are they the Commission and the European Parliament who have been content to let the Council keep the citizens in the dark?

Are they the European Parliament, which as an institution has sided with its ‘culturally diverse’ membership against calls for publishing and rooting out the squandering and misappropriation of public funds?

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The common denominator for the questions above seems to be that less than free movement of knowledge has been the express desire of the honourable men (and women), who have taken upon themselves the burden to uphold their prerogatives.

By all means, remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a "fifth freedom", but start by giving EU citizens grown ups’ rights.


Ralf Grahn