|Author (Person)||Shelley, John|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.22, 31.5.01, p9|
MEPs probing US interception of European telecommunications want the EU to push for the World Trade Organisation to be given tough powers to tackle international industrial espionage.
In a draft version of the final report by the European Parliament's Echelon committee, they say the existence of an American global eavesdropping network is "no longer in doubt".
Also certain, they say, is that the system, operated with the help of the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is used to monitor telephone, fax and email communications by European companies.
The MEPs admit they cannot be sure that sensitive commercial information from these communications is being passed on to help American firms gain a competitive advantage.
But they say international law should be tightened to try to ensure that it is not. "Member states are called upon to consider to what extent industrial espionage can be combated by means of international law," says German MEP Gerhard Schmid, the author of the report. "Particularly whether WTO rules could be adopted which would render contracts null and void if obtained by means of industrial espionage."
Schmid's draft report is the product of almost a year's work from the committee, specially set up to consider whether telecommunications eavesdropping by foreign governments is posing a threat to the privacy of EU citizens and the competitiveness of Union businesses.
He says that although the US - and also possibly France and Russia - is eavesdropping, the scale of monitoring is less than has often been claimed because only satellite traffic, not cable or radio signals, are easily intercepted en masse.
Schmid also considers questions over the future of cooperation between intelligence services in the EU.
He says plans for an increased defence role for the EU and the proposals for a rapid reaction force mean Europe will ultimately need its own secret service.
The report also considers the legal implications of the Echelon network. Schmid says that so long as the information gathered is used solely to protect state security, the UK is not breaking the Union's rules by taking part."If on the other hand the system is abused to spy on competitors, it violates the member states' duty of loyalty and the concept of a common market with free competition," he says. "If a member state participates in that, it violates EC law."
Either way, Schmid says London is already breaching the European Convention on Human Rights because Echelon's broad sweep monitoring does not guarantee individual privacy.
MEPs probing US interception of European telecommunications want the EU to push for the World Trade Organisation to be given tough powers to tackle international industrial espionage. In a draft version of the final report by the European Parliament's Echelon committee, they say the existence of an American global eavesdropping network is 'no longer in doubt'.
|Subject Categories||Internal Markets|
|Countries / Regions||United States|