Biting the hand that feeds you

Neelie Kroes EC Vice-President

A cross Neelie Kroes points the finger at Azerbaijan.

The other evening, I was recounting an incident that occurred in Sofia about 3 years ago. A group of foreigners arrived at Sofia airport, jumped into a taxi, and were taken to their city-centre hotel.

The fare came to 102 leva. They paid up, but thought it rather excessive.

The group had fallen foul of a common trick – excessive charging by rogue taxi companies operating out of the airport.

The problem was, the extortionate tariff per kilometre was clearly posted on the cab window – 8.60 leva/km – so the unfortunate mugs had to pay up. At the standard taxi rate in 2009, they’d have paid 11 or 12 leva.

By now, there’s at least more of a semblance of order at the airport, with 2 local companies licensed to pick up passengers. It isn’t perfect, but it’s at least a welcome improvement.

Why am I reminiscing about such an old and all-too-frequent story?[1]

The visitors were attending an anti-fraud conference in Sofia. No, wait, there’s more!

They were all, in fact, officials of OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office.

History repeats itself

Azerbaijan hosted a conference on internet security last week. An EC delegation, led by Vice-President Neelie Kroes, attended the Internet Governance Forum held in the capital, Baku.

On her blog, Kroes, who is responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, had already expressed some advance misgivings about the situation in Azerbaijan:

“Azerbaijan is a country with serious issues of media freedom – where journalists regularly face arrest or imprisonment, and the suppression of very basic human rights. While I’m there I’ll be raising a number of concerns about how protection and promotion of human rights.”[sic – no second verb][2]

(It’s worth checking this brief post[2] on Kroes’ blog, as there’s a linked reference to Bulgaria’s media situation, a topic she’s also actively following.)

Then, on Saturday – the very day I was regaling friends with the OLAF mishap – Kroes blogged again:

“The reality in Azerbaijan is harsh. We see many arbitrary restrictions on the media. We see the exercise of free speech effectively criminalised. We see violent attacks on journalists.”

“Here in Azerbaijan the Internet is a double-edged sword. Unlike neighbouring Turkey and Iran, everyone in Azerbaijan has access – but on the other hand, they face the consequences if they use the Internet in a way the government doesn’t like.”[3]

Again, why am I going on about this?

Kroes also reported on Saturday that, while attending the forum, and at their hotel:

My advisers had their computers hacked.
So much for openness

So much, indeed!

I was alerted to the Baku hacking story by The Washington Post[4]

[1]: The Sofia Echo 

[2]: Kroes first blog entry

[3]: Kroes follow-up blog entry

[4]: The Washington Post



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2 Responses to “Biting the hand that feeds you”

  1. Mark R.Milan Says:

    there was a very brief mention of the conference on the bbc click podcast. one of the organizers explains why it is being held in Baku.
    [audio src="" /]

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