Mr Tillack is a respected German reporter who has written extensively about the Eurostat scandal. This convoluted affair really deserves a column to itself but, briefly, it involves allegations that millions of euros have been diverted from the budget by Commission officials. More recently, Mr Tillack had started to investigate the broader failure of EU authorities to act on tip-offs. It was this that triggered the reaction. Last month police swooped on his flat. He was questioned for ten hours without a lawyer, while his laptop, files and address book were confiscated. Even his private bank statements were ransacked.
The raid was ordered by Olaf, the EU's anti-corruption unit. Needless to say, no such treatment has been meted out to the alleged fraudsters. In the looking-glass world of Brussels, it is those exposing sleaze, rather than those engaging in it, who find themselves in police custody. Mr Tillack was implausibly accused of having procured some of his papers by bribery. No formal charges have been brought, and he is now planning to sue. In the meantime, though, the notes he had built up over five years of meticulous work have been seized and his sources put at risk.
In the Tillack case, we see perhaps the EU's most worrying tendency: its belief that its cause is self-evidently right, and that this justifies virtually any action against its critics. If you think I am exaggerating, cast your mind back to an article in this newspaper by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard a couple of years ago. It concerned the legal case brought by Bernard Connolly, who had been sacked from the European Commission for opposing the euro. In giving his judgment, the EU's Advocate-General pronounced that freedom of speech was not an all-encompassing right; criticism of the European Union, like blasphemy, lay outside its remit.
Saturday, 8 May 2004
Dirty work at the Crossroads in Europe. From The Spectator :