Snowden is the “EU nomination” for this year’s Oscars

Screenshot / The Guardian / Video from June story on the PRISM

Screenshot / The Guardian / Video from June story on the PRISM

After last June’s revelations about the PRISM scandal you can actually feel it that the air in world politics has less oxygen. The leaders of the major world powers, EU, USA and Russia faced severe respiratory issues during this period. Obama is still suffering from severe panic attacks, Putin broke the window to get some air and Barroso just bought a second-hand oxygen mask on the eBay. Is it only our holly martyr Edward Snowden to blame for this? I am afraid not. Apparently the world’s super powers were boiling in low fire for quite some time now and were only looking for the right opportunity to get it out of their system.

It seems that three major political issues of the past months, that on first sight look completely different, are finally a trilogy of a blockbuster political “thriller”. I am talking here of course about the Data Privacy super scandal that the PRISM raised, the TTIP between the USA and the EU and the involvement of the west to the Syrian crisis. Watching every minute of this heart-breaking political “series”, the spectator will easily notice how the three protagonists try to win consecutive games of political chess, by trying every single strategy that is described in the world’s literature of international politics. During the past months we watched the US being internationally embarrassed for their already known covert data violation practices, the EU to be the following sheep of the American shepherd in both the PRISM and the TTIP, nodding along basically with everything, and Russia to unexpectedly break the diplomatic bank both with “Saint” Edward and with the Syrian issue, teaching to the Americans some good lessons of international politics.

The Sakharov Prize

The last act of this worth watching play took place a couple of weeks ago in the European Parliament. It was only then that the European Parliament announced the seven finalists for the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. This prize is one of the most important prizes in Europe. It is named after the Nobelist Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989), the man who participated in the development of a hydrogen bomb (H-bomb) and became later a human rights defender speaking against nuclear weapons.  The EU since 1988 is giving this prize of 50 K euros value to people that have showed remarkable activity in protecting Human Rights.

There is no doubt that amongst the finalists there are personalities-symbols of the noble fight for human rights. A very serious candidate, and probably the favourite for the prize, is Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old Pakistani girl, who became an advocate of female education at her 11 years of age when she blogged for BBC Urdu describing life for girls under the Taliban rule in Pakistan that is blocking them from the right education. This heroic girl has won the National Peace Prize in her country and was also nominee for the International Children’s Peace Prize before she suffered a severe criminal attack against her in October 2012, when she was shot in the head by the Taliban fundamentalists. Luckily for the world, Malala survived. The Pakistani girl has been honoured with the Ambassador of Conscience award by Amnesty International as well, while rumour has it she will be running for candidate for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize too.

Next to this young, symbol for Humanity as a whole, other candidates take their position: the Belarussian dissidents Ales Bialatski, Eduard Lobau and Mykola Statkevich,  representing all political prisoners who are in jail after they protested against election fraud by President Alexander Lukashenko, the Russian oligarch  Mikhail Khodorkovsky spending 10 years in a Siberian jail after calling on President Putin to account for systemic corruption and advocating an independent judicial system and respect for the rule of law, the first man to stand in the Turkish Taksim Square, Erdem Gunduz, CNN’s Freedom Project and the Ethiopian journalists Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega, who were jailed for criticizing Ethiopia’s lack of freedom of speech.

If you count the candidates above, you will easily find out that there are only six and that one of them is missing from the list. Who is missing? Take a wild guess! Who is the superstar whistleblower of our times, a true descendant of the “wikileaks generation”?  Who uncovered the holy grail of data privacy violation to the press? Who is the runaway former CIA agent that is currently hiding somewhere in Russia with temporary political asylum? Enough with the quizzes. Some call him a modern super hero, some a traitor, others a runaway coward. It doesn’t matter. The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance and the Confederal Group of the United European Left/Nordic European Left suggested Edward Snowden for Sakharov’s prize and the majour European political parties, EPP, ALDE and the Socialists took this opportunity.

Snowden the European Waterloo

There is not any doubt that memories from the big American “bug” in Brussels are still fresh. Europe was severely hurt by this scandal that broke out last summer both politically and morally. We all remember the protest of the EU leadership and the requests towards the US to give reason for the Brussels taping. We all also remember that this European “rage” was drowned for the sake of the fast promotion of the TTIP with the USA. We even heard in Brussels some jokes that the data privacy scandal would be investigated at the same time with the negotiations for the TTIP. So, basically the EU was given for free with this powerful advantage (PRISM) in the negotiation for the TTIP and they did not even unwrap the gift. And all this inspired by a clumsy and unreasonably nervous European stance according to which the TTIP should be the top of the top priorities. As if the EU was Greece begging the Troika for the next dose. The European Sting covered this matter in detail in the past.

I think nobody can deny the paroxysm that followed the Snowden scandal in Europe, with Brussels following all the demands of the Americans for co-operation on the issue.  Edward Snowden was denounced as a national traitor at the other side of the Atlantic and Brussels rushed to embrace Obama’s thoughts. Obama basically forbid the EU member states to give political asylum to the former CIA agent and surprisingly enough Brussels nodded along. Brussels also agreed with any sort of co-operation in the unprecedented global head hunt for the notorious whistlelower. Even foreign planes were stopped and isolated in the European airports last summer following US orders. Who will forget the presidential plane of the Bolivian President Evo Morales that was “captured” last July at the airport of Vienna for one entire day under the suspicion of having Snowden aboard? At that time the Bolivian aircraft was thoroughly frisked by the Austrian police, aided by the CIA, trying unsuccessfully to find even a small piece of hair from the head of Snowden. If all this surrender is not a political Waterloo for the European leadership, then words have lost their meaning.

And the Oscar goes to the EU

After all this tremendous European political fiasco on the handling of the Snowden issue, suddenly the leadership of the old continent woke up and decided to place the name of the infamous whistleblower in the list of the 7 finalists of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Mrs Rebecca Harms, Co-President of the Greens / European Free Alliance (EFA) at an interview at the Voice of Russia explained why her party suggested Snowden’s nomination for the prize: “by nominating Edward Snowden for the Sakharov Prize, we want to show that we are praising highly his revelations and that what he did is very important for the defense of the European human rights. I believe that Snowden should be given political asylum in the European Union… Of course, this award can’t be placed on the same footing with granting asylum to an applicant. However, the pressure that is being put on the European governments – meaning that Snowden is a candidate for the Sakharov Prize – may urge them to think once more about granting asylum to him.”

Apparently Mrs Harms recognizes the European Titanic with the Snowden case and her party is placing the nomination to make the EU reconsider the political asylum ban? We don’t want to doubt the intentions of Mrs Harms and neither of the Greens here but this statement is as stable as Foucault’s pendulum. Does Sakharov prize come with a political asylum in the package? Is the nomination process of this prize the right way to bring this issue to the Parliament? Did the majour parties like the EPP and ALDE embraced the nomination because they have lost their sleep all this time, feeling guilty sinners that they did not allow Snowden to take a stroll in Paris? Or will Obama really be politically hurt because of this nomination? Perhaps Putin will feel justified for being the only one for giving Snowden political asylum?

Clearly the questions above have a rhetorical character and the answer is simply NO. The intention for this nomination is clearly to play one of the last acts in this post-PRISM political chess between EU-US-Russia. Especially when the win of the unbelievably noble and inspiring little girl Yousafzai is considered almost certain and will be probably officially announced in October. This is a political micro-game, the kind of the nice clumsy ones our European leaders often play nowadays, and not a true nomination for freedom of speech prize. If the EU really saw Edward Snowden as the modern Messiah of freedom of speech, then the whistleblower would be eating mussels in Grand Plance of Brussels now and not be hiding in mysterious locations in Russia under mysterious circumstances. If the EU really wants to correct its stance against Edward Snowden, then this should happen using a mainstream channel and not suggesting him as a nominee for prizes that he does not even stand a chance of winning.

Runaways don’t win prizes

At the end of the day, Yousafzai like other nominees, objectively worth Sakharov Prize much more than the former CIA agent. And I don’t have the intention to undermine here the importance of the revelations Snowden brought to light. The citizen of the world needs to have the right to know how her data are being processed and by whom, especially noawadays. The PRISM scandal created awareness and educated people about the fierce modern times of data privacy violation. Up to this point, everything is good and I appraise Mr Snowden for doing what he did and also the Guardian for publishing it, serving journalism and certainly its lucrative business model.

I am confident, though, that Snowden will not or should not win this prize and neither the Nobel one, as rumours want him to also run for a candidate there, because of his mere stance as a person. The infamous whistleblower did not have the courage to face to the fullest the consequences of his actions. And this is the most simple principle of the most noble virtue of humanity, to stand on one’s feet and face the full consequences of one’s action with patience and modesty. Unfortunately, Snowden did not do this. He did not stay to stand a trial in his country but he ran away to avoid pain. Last time I checked, no-one ever won a Nobel for Peace nor a Sakharov prize for doing something good and avoiding the consequences of his actions. This is in my opinion the core reason why everybody will remember Nelson Mandela, who by the way has won both prizes, and not Edward Snowden, the runaway saviour of data privacy.

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Comments

  1. Since when is data privacy an absolute human right which trumps other rights?

  2. Since when did the EU start granting political asylum?

  3. Charles says:

    Snowden is a piece of crap. Rewarding spies publicly means havoc. World War 3 anyone. Snowden set the stage. String him up.

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