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Respekt in English

A Leak for Christmas

The U.S. cables revealed by WikiLeaks have brought a small measure of seasonal cheer to citizens of the new EU states.

Násilník a podvraceč nebo bojovník za spravedlivější svět? (Julian Assange) • Autor: Globe Media /  Reuters
Násilník a podvraceč nebo bojovník za spravedlivější svět? (Julian Assange) • Autor: Globe Media / Reuters

According to reports – or leaks? – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the front runner to be named Time magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year. Assange would make a justified choice. You can love or hate what his website is doing but you have to live with it. This phenomenon is not going to disappear no matter if Assange is put behind bars, his website closed down, and its financial streams blocked. New followers and their websites will pop up, because no one can thwart either the flow of information in the infinite electronic world or the motives of people who feed it. Global leaking is here to stay because there is a market for it – all of us.

Obviously there are questions to be answered and consequences to bear. One question is why Assange and his crew have concentrated on the U.S. administration. They say it’s because after the 9/11 attacks American diplomacy turned too secretive and shadowy. That may be true but surely there are other states whose diplomacies are too secretive and their true intentions deserve to be disclosed, for the good of everyone – say North Korea? Or Iran?

And of course, there is the question of how the disclosure of diplomatic communications will change the work of the diplomats. Shall we expect that the men and women in the service of their state will go back to the old days of deal-making in smoky rooms and then dashing off messages decipherable by only a select few, thus vastly reducing access to information – the exact opposite of what WikiLeaks says it wants to achieve? Several Czech diplomats queried on this by Respekt magazine said that at this time they don’t see a revolution coming. Nevertheless, they all agreed something must change. It remains to be seen what, exactly, but it will hardly be more willingness to copy information to wider circles of recipients.

Násilník a podvraceč nebo bojovník za spravedlivější svět? (Julian Assange) • Autor: Globe Media /  Reuters
Násilník a podvraceč nebo bojovník za spravedlivější svět? (Julian Assange) • Autor: Globe Media / Reuters

And what of the new European Union members? So far, things haven’t turned out too nasty for the Central and Eastern European diplomatic services. People in the Baltics found out that NATO has finally drawn up a plan on how to defend them against any Russian threat – something they have been asking for for ages. The Guardian reported that the decision to draft contingency plans for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania was made secretly earlier this year and then quietly signed off on by the NATO leaders at their summit in Lisbon last month. That is an important piece of news that Baltic journalists were desperately trying to obtain and WikiLeaks, with the help of the British reporters, did the job.

The Czechs, for their part, now know that their government was talking straight when, during the Czech presidency of the EU last year, it sought to engage the United States in European discussions of global outreach, for example about new sanctions on Iran. You may disagree with the pro-U.S. lobby here but at least the Czech diplomatic corps was taking steps in line with government policy of being a strategic partner with Washington.

And so, since WikiLeaks has proven useful for this region, here is an open letter to Julian Assange, in hopes that he may be able to unlock a deep Czech secret. After all, Christmas is almost here.

Dear Julian,

Here in the Czech Republic we have a problem of decision-makers being too secretive. You know what I’m talking about. A timely example is the silence around the euro currency. I don’t know what you think about the euro but that’s not important here. You see, our central bank and our president, both very important and influential, want us to never join the eurozone although we are in the EU. They would rather we keep our Czech crowns forever.

They may well be right in this but we don’t know. They don’t say why it’s better with the crown and what we have to fear from the euro. If you ask as a journalist, you get the f-word for an answer. And if you ask as a regular citizen the answer is the same.

Since it’s Christmas, I would have one wish. Can you ask – pay, maybe? – one of your staff to leak information from the central bank and from Prague Castle (that’s where our president has his office although we’re a republic) that would explain to Czech businesses, to the clueless officials, and to us, some 10 million people, why the crown is better? I know things are a bit hard for you now since you were arrested but surely you can find a way. Your leak would be much appreciated!

And oh yes, Merry Christmas to you!

  • Autor: Respekt
• Autor: Respekt

This column was published on the Transitions Online website (www.tol.org). Transitions Online covers political, economic and social developments in Central & Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia.

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