Sunday, July 29, 2007

Software patents are just the beginning

When I was younger, I did what I thought was the right thing: I felt European. My pizza's were Italian, my wine Spanish, my cigarettes (bad habit, true..) French, my girlfriends German and my place of birth Dutch. I spoke four languages fluently and felt as home in Berlin or Paris as I would in Amsterdam. I thought a "United States of Europe", "Vereinigte Staten von Europa" or "Etats-Unies d'Europe" would be a great thing.

There was some logic in there. Although we tend to hear more news from the federal American government, American states have a great deal of autonomy. The central idea is to decentralize what can be decentralized and to centralize what needs to be centralized. People can vote for every single institution, from their local sheriff up to the president. The actual implementation may not be ideal, but the fundamental idea is sound. A Europe like that couldn't be bad in a world where globalization seems inevitable. But it wouldn't come to that..

In Europe, the European Commission and Council expand their powers and interfere more and more with the internal affairs of the member states. Note that those two institutions are not elected by European citizens, but appointed! The only European institution elected by its citizens is the European parliament and even this institution has been plagued by scandals and corruption for years.

And even if it were perfect, their powers are quite limited. When we were asked for a vote on the European constitution it was stated that the European parliament would get more power, but only if we gave up a large part of our sovereignty: our ability to say "No". To me that was like the promise of a used car salesman: "If you invest another $5000, trust me: it will be a great car."

The undemocratic nature of Europe is illustrated again by recent events. Although the people of France and the Netherlands have said no to the European constitution, chairman Barosso said in an interview: "People change, governments change. The constitution is not dead at all". Obviously Barosso considers democracy to be a wheel of fortune: if you don't like the result, you just spin it again.

Another example are the software patents. For one time the European parliament did something useful: it said "No". It seems the only word that can stop the Moloch called EU. And even then, the EU has hearing difficulties. Or to quote a Dutch politician: "Which part of 'No' wasn't clear"? Again, the same trick is used: just give the wheel another spin. So next time you are cheering that Microsoft has to pay another half a billion dollars in fines, remember that they will happily do so in order to get their patents through.

In short, the EU gives another meaning to the expression "What comes around, goes around". You can't say they don't have patience or persistence. And they are getting more powerful every day. But what really worries me that I even haven't a clue who "they" are.. Certainly not the representatives of the European people. Even the penal code of member states is in jeopardy, according to todays newspapers. If that is the case, a thing like software patents should really be a piece of cake for "them". I can only paraphrase George Orwell on this: if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on our democratic rights and traditions - for ever.

All in all, I really see only one solution for democracy in Europe: dissolve this monster we have created and return to the basics, which was an economic community. If that can't be achieved, I call on all European citizens to urge their governments to get out of the European Union. Get out while you still can. After that, software patents will be a piece of cake, I promise you..

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