The European Parliament has today adopted a set of ‘irresponsible’ recommendations calling for anti-terror agreements with the US to be suspended and trade talks to be ‘held to ransom’ over the NSA allegations made by Edward Snowden.
European Conservatives and Reformists Group Justice and Home Affairs spokesman Timothy Kirkhope said he could not support the report because to do so would put Europe’s security at risk, and its economic recovery in jeopardy.
The parliament has conducted a six month self-appointed ‘investigation’ into the allegations that were made against US and other European security services, despite having no powers over matters of national security. Its ‘findings’ seek further European Parliament oversight over national security agencies, and demand the suspension of crucial counter-terror agreements with the USA such as Passenger Name Records and the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme – both proven as effective tools for catching terrorists and serious criminals.
Mr Kirkhope said that the recommendations in the report would put his constituents in harm’s way. And he was critical of the centre-right EPP group who voted to support a report that would not only jeopardise security, but which also puts at risk the game-changing EU-US trade deal by setting out a stipulation that the parliament would only ratify a deal if the USA complies fully with EU human rights law.
Speaking after today’s vote, the former UK Home Office minister said:
“This so-called committee of inquiry has been irresponsible from day one. It has been a six-month long witch-hunt against the United States that has sought not to find answers but to jump on every accusation that has been made.
“Rather than approaching these allegations in a calm and open-minded manner, the committee has shouted down anyone who offers a dissenting view, and knew exactly what its demands would be before it had even begun work.
“I will not support the suspension of crucial counter-terror agreements with the USA that have saved lives; and at a time of high unemployment to stipulate that a trade deal must abide European human rights law would be cutting off our nose to spite our face. It is not just the United States who would be punished by the parliament’s actions, but the people of Europe too.
“The report has failed in his duty to balance liberty with security. Instead it is a paper worthy of a school debating society, not a responsible parliament. And I am extremely disappointed that the EPP has supported this report.
“The European Parliament has no formal powers over national security, but it does have the ability to derail game-changing trade deals. I can only hope that the next parliament will take a less dogmatic and unbalanced view towards the threats that we face and the actions needed to counter them.”
Just a few key aspects of the adopted report include:
53. Reiterates its resolution of 23 October 2013 and asks the Commission for the suspension of the TFTP Agreement;
57. Asks the Commission and Council not to initiate any new sectorial agreements or arrangements for the transfer of personal data for law enforcement purposes with the US as long as the ‘Umbrella Agreement’ has not entered into force;
60. Stresses that both the Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Directive are necessary to protect the fundamental rights of individuals, and that the two must therefore be treated as a package to be adopted simultaneously, in order to ensure that all data-processing activities in the EU provide a high level of protection in all circumstances; stresses that it will only adopt further law enforcement cooperation measures once the Council has entered into negotiations with Parliament and the Commission on the Data Protection Package; (Note that half the parliament voted against the law enforcement directive today)
73. Strongly emphasises, given the importance of the digital economy in the relationship and in the cause of rebuilding EU-US trust, that the consent of the European Parliament to the final TTIP agreement could be endangered as long as the blanket mass surveillance activities and the interception of communications in EU institutions and diplomatic representations are not completely abandoned and an adequate solution is found for the data privacy rights of EU citizens, including administrative and judicial redress; stresses that Parliament may only consent to the final TTIP agreement provided the agreement fully respects, inter alia, the fundamental rights recognised by the EU Charter, and provided the protection of the privacy of individuals in relation to the processing and dissemination of personal data remain governed by Article XIV of the GATS; stresses that EU data protection legislation cannot be deemed an ‘arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination’ in the application of Article XIV of the GATS;
131. Decides to launch ‘A European Digital Habeas Corpus – protecting fundamental rights in a digital age’ with the following 8 actions, the implementation of which it will oversee:
Action 1: Adopt the Data Protection Package in 2014;
Action 2: Conclude the EU-US Umbrella Agreement guaranteeing the fundamental right of citizens to privacy and data protection and ensuring proper redress mechanisms for EU citizens, including in the event of data transfers from the EU to the US for law enforcement purposes;
Action 3: Suspend Safe Harbour until a full review has been conducted and current loopholes are remedied, making sure that transfers of personal data for commercial purposes from the Union to the US can only take place in compliance with the highest EU standards;
Action 4: Suspend the TFTP agreement until: (i) the Umbrella Agreement negotiations have been concluded; (ii) a thorough investigation has been concluded on the basis of an EU analysis and all concerns raised by Parliament in its resolution of 23 October 2013 have been properly addressed