In George Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984, one slogan of the party dominating Britain was: “Ignorance Is Strength.”
It actually meant that the ignorance of the people is the strength of the government: if people do not know things, or do not have the information to make informed decisions, they are like subjects, not free citizens.
Something akin to this is going on in the European Union (EU) on the energy front. Energy is an active are of EU public policy. Yet authorities are not revealing information (data is surely has) that is crucial to determine whether its policies are distorting the market and come at too high a cost to society.
The website of Eurostat – the European Union’s statistical office – sells itself as “your key to European statistics.” The EU also created an ad-hoc website, www.energy.eu, in order to provide “your trusted source for past, present and projected Energy Prices and Statistics.”
While words are sweet, the implementation of the goals is far from perfect. In fact, several key statistics are not available–not even commercially–especially with regard to energy issues.
This is a major fault in Europe’s credibility in advancing its policy goals, as well as a serious limitation to the accountability of the policy making process, because it prevents, or makes it much harder, to double check the rationale, the numbers, and the declared outcomes of the EU’s policies.
Ironically, Eurostat is hosting a major conference on “Statistics for policymaking: Europe 2020”. Many interesting issues will be debated, but apparently the conference will fail to deal with the most important one: how can we evaluate policies, if we are not provided the relevant data to do so?
I have been feeling uncomfortable with the quality of statistical information provided by Europe’s statistical office, as well as by my own country’s statistical office, for a long time, but in the last few months I have had serious problems.