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Cybercrime in Europe and in the European Union: No personal affair!

You may have read my previous post in which I asked: “Cybercrime in Europe and in the European Union: A personal affair?” My informed guess in this post was correct: The expert on cybercrime from the Hungarian Council Presidency we – Europasionaria, Ralf, Sandra and I – were speaking with was Péter Csonka.

Yet, my  deliberately provocative closing remark that one might read from the evidence presented in that post that he had been building his career on the advancement of international cybercrime legislation was clearly refuted by the reality that you don’t read in the referenced documents.

He explained that the dossiers he has been dealing with in the Commission in the last years – he is currently seconded to the Hungarian presidency – were actually not at all related to cybercrime. And the fact that this topic was on the Hungarian Presidency’s agenda right now was a pure coincidence.

So the answer to the question in the title of the previous post is a “No!”, the necessity to prove the claims (“Quod esset demonstrandum“) is not met and we are thus left with the old messy complexity of EU decision-making instead of having simple answers.

However, this brings me back to one of the basic questions of this blog, namely how do we entangle the complexity of EU affairs that only experts or scientists are really interested in and how do we tell stories on details of current EU matters in an interesting and understandable way. How do we reach out to audiences that may not share the political scientist’s or legislative expert’s pleasure of meticulous analysis?

How do you construct catching stories on quite complex matters such as the interlink between EU institutional affairs, national interests as well as European and international conventions in the field of cybercrime? How do you do this when large parts of the work thereon are not done between politicians in public but between mostly unknown public officials behind closed doors, when all you can usually work with is diplomatic texts, short administrative summaries or rare yet complex scientific analyses?

In other words: How do you enter into a debate with an unknown counterpart? How do you deal with public bodies that are blurring their responsibilities in such a way that it becomes close to impossible for the public to voice targeted criticism?

I obviously don’t know the perfect answers to these questions, but I think that the elements employed in the previous post – personalisation, deliberate simplification and even provocative interpretations or speculations based on what is publicly available (i.e. public documents) – are ways bloggers can help fostering debates that go beyond the nitty-gritty of day-to-day EU politics. And this nitty-gritty is usually boring to a level of masochism that only few well-paid lobbyists can stand it!

But speculations, even deliberately exaggerated, may not just be ways to spice up otherwise boring or overly complex topics. They can also show where there is actually room for such speculations. They can indicate where there could be a need for more transparency, where public documentation is not conclusive enough to give a comprehensive picture or where institutional communication as well as journalistic coverage have failed to explain what is going on behind the scenes.

Still, being provocative can also give you a bad conscience, in particular when you meet the subject of your deliberately provocative interpretation in person

After the extensive and substantive brief that Péter Csonka gave us on the current work of the Council in the field of cybercrime and the time he took for us bloggers, I kind of felt I could have made my point in the last post with less provocative conclusions, even if these were expressed in the subjunctive. I was definitely glad having had the opportunity to meet him and the discussion we had was excellent.

So for the second time I was impressed by the Hungarian presidency’s openness to letting us “outsiders” to the system take a deeper look into the mechanisms of its work, including the readiness to discuss some details of ongoing discussions. Even if these details were told “off-the-record” they may help to interpret some future developments in that policy field more accurately.

Therefore thanks again to the two spokespersons of the Hungarian Presidency – Kovács & Kováts – for inviting us bloggers a second time and to Péter Csonka for his time, expertise and understanding. This is much appreciated!

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