Heard in Europe

As Frans Timmermans pointed out recently, what bothers people about the Eurosceptic parties is that sometimes they are right. When Marine Le Pen posed a parliamentary question to the Commission about Commissioners’ emails, after the scandal of Hillary Clinton’s private emails, she clearly had a point.

The use of personal email to discuss foreign affairs has rapidly become a scandale d’Etat. Would such a situation be possible with Commissioners? Officially, the Commission answered no, and no. As put in the written answer, any exchange between a member of the Commission, or its services, and a third party should be registered. Since last February, some of the communications should even be encrypted, a new decree says.

But the real question is not whether it’s allowed or not. Because of course, it’s not. Sensitive information going through personal emails is getting out of control. It would already be an issue in a middle-sized company; it’s a bigger problem for the foreign affairs of the most powerful country in the world.

So the question is whether anyone is checking on this. Is anyone observing what Commissioners are doing while leading the EU? On the 25th of May, the Ombudsman pointed out the lack of transparency around “trialogues”, the private discussions between Parliament, Council and the Commission. But trialogues are just the end of a long story, which travels along a path where transparency is not the rule.

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