Reading through European and American newspapers, one can easily recognize the difference between the EU’s and the USA’s reactions to the Wikileaks scandal. Applying the distinction made famous by Robert Kagan, it can be said that while US politicians appear to have the characteristics of “Mars” when waging an undeclared war against Wikileaks, EU officials generally have a softer tone about this matter. But what can be implied from the EU’s attitude towards the Wikileaks Cablegate?
Wikileaks can split the EU.
On 9 September 2010, the European Parliament sent some questions to the European Commission about “the WikiLeaks case, transparency, press freedom and access to information in the EU” . The questions, which were based on the news that “the Obama administration had asked several of its allies, including some EU Member States, to consider filing criminal charges against the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange”, concerned the Commission’s viewpoint and actions towards Wikileaks. On 16 November 2010, the answers to these questions were given, thereby the Commission emphasized that it “has not taken any action towards Wikileaks and has no power to take any measure such as censorship or website blocking”, and that it respects the freedom of expression and information .
In another rare statement under the EU label, EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström said “the latest cyber-attacks on Wikileaks make the case for the EU to criminalize the software tools enabling such crimes”, and confirmed that “the commission has proposed to criminalize botnets, the viruses and malicious software which were apparently used to attack WikiLeaks”. In both Ms. Malmstrom’s statement and a discussion paper prepared by the EU’s anti-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerckhove, for an EU interior ministers’ meeting on the first week of December, “state-driven or state-sponsored attacks” are highlighted as a risk to cyber security .
In general, EU officials have only mentioned the Wikileaks scandal from the merely IT point of view. On the Digital Agenda Communication from the Commission (26/08/2010), politically-motivated cyber attacks are addressed briefly, in only one sentence . According to EUobserver, EU spokespeople refused to comment officially on the leaks, “but senior EU officials interviewed on an anonymous basis by EUobserver… say it will have practical and political implications for EU foreign-policy-making” .
Meanwhile, some EU governments sound more frank than their supranational bodies when openly defending the US in the Wikileaks scandal . Notably, “British police have arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on a European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden in a case of alleged rape” . I doubt this is just an excuse. Several weeks ago, Vietnamese democracy activist Cu Huy Ha Vu was arrested for using a prostitute while in fact, the woman who was with him on the night he was arrested is only his friend. Whenever reading about Julian Assange, I always think about Cu Huy Ha Vu case, and wonder why such democratic governments like Sweden and the UK can act exactly like a Communist state.
In conclusion, the Wikileaks case illustrates not only the difference between “Venus” EU and “Mars” USA, but also shows the split between supranational and national reactions in the EU, in which the supranational bodies can act like “Venus” while national governments can act like “Mars”. However, this Cablegate might make the EU tighten the cooperation between the information technology and external affairs fields. Cyber attacks might be considered to be caused not only by all kinds of viruses which destroy computers and network systems or invade personal privacy, but also by hackers who want to disclose state secrets.