The political cynicism of Quaero

quaero I’m probably one of the relatively few Englishmen who think the European Union is a good thing.

After all, I am from a country that talks about Europe generally as a separate place, as in "I’m going to Europe" rather than "I’m going to continental Europe." Or even "I’m going to the Continent," always with a capital C.

The big problem with the EU, though, is that political meddling and vested national political (and commercial) interests make a mockery of much of the perceived benefits of membership.

I’m not talking about sausage or banana myths but something far more real.

It’s called Quaero and it’s as ridiculous as those myths.

This is how Quaero describes itself:

Quaero is a collaborative research and development program, centered at developing multimedia and multilingual indexing and management tools for professional and general public applications such as the automatic analysis, classification, extraction and exploitation of information.

In other words, Quaero is a search engine and it’s intended by its champions to become a European alternative to Google.

It’s also one of those European projects beloved by some French and German politicians (in particular) as it puffs up their national pride as well as illustrates that the EU experiment is working pretty well.

I just cannot imagine anything like ‘a search engine to rival Google’ having a hope of success when the people calling the shots in its development are politicians.

In any case, if some French politicians are concerned about having a French search engine, there is one already called

(Ok, I know I’m not the first one to point that out with tongue in cheek.)

But here’s the latest development:

The European Union’s competition watchdog has approved the use of €99m (£76m) of French state aid for a consortium attempting to build an internet search engine to take on Google. The Quaero project […] is still in the concept stage, but will now be able to get up and running thanks to support from France, which has championed the scheme. Following an "in-depth examination," the European Commission decided that the Quaero project "brings positive externalities for the community as a whole."

Full details in the European Commission press release.

Any idea what ‘positive externalities’ are?

Maybe it means the benefits for at least one French company, according to The Register:

[…] Quaero will ultimately enable Thomson – the electronics manufacturer and media services provider headquartered in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris – to enhance its commercial range of Internet protocol audiovisual content distribution platforms such as IPTV and video-on-demand, and of digital multimedia content management systems.

No, pro European that I am, that’s surely far too much a cynical view.

Quaero is holding a press conference on March 17 "to present the 5 year collaborative and development project."

So you can make up your own mind.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.