|Author (Person)||Shelley, John|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.26, 28.6.01, p8|
A BREAKAWAY group of MEPs have accused their colleagues of neglecting ordinary EU citizens in favour of big business during their investigation into America's secret electronic spying network, dubbed Echelon.
Green and left-wing Euro MPs on the European Parliament's special Echelon committee say the final report by the group underestimates the threat to the individual's right of privacy posed by alleged US eavesdropping on European telecommunications.
And they say the report pulls its punches when it comes to confronting member states, notably the UK and Germany, which are accused of helping America to intercept the telephone calls, e-mails and faxes of other EU nations.
The Parliament's report must demand firm action, they say, because such behaviour is directly contrary to the spirit of European integration and in breach of European Convention of Human Rights articles on privacy. "We must urge countries which are involved to get out of the Echelon system or get out of the Union," said committee vice-president and Italian communist Giuseppe Di Lello Finuoli.
The Echelon committee was set up by Parliament a year ago to investigate claims the US was eavesdropping on Europe using sophisticated electronic spying equipment.
The final report, by German socialist MEP Gerhard Schmid and due to be agreed by the committee next week, concludes that Echelon does exist but that Washington does not have the capability to monitor all telecommunications, as some had claimed.
Schmid does, however, advise European businesses to encrypt their communications to make sure they do not lose valuable company secrets.
Six MEPs on the committee say the report misses the point, and they are set to table a minority opinion dissenting from the official line. "For the majority of the Parliament, the focus is the industry and its profit interests, which are supposedly threatened by industrial espionage," a draft version of the minority report states. "It is a much more important issue, though, that no one can communicate in confidence over distances any more."
The MEPs also attack the assembly's report for criticising Echelon but then going on to say the EU's planned military rapid reaction force will require its own surveillance network. "Secret services as such are fundamentally undemocratic institutions which will as long as they exist continue to infringe the fundamental human right to privacy," they say.
They add: "For every society it is a fundamental decision whether to live under permanent control. By adopting this report the European Parliament makes clear that it is not concerned about protecting human rights and citizen's liberties."
Scottish nationalist Neil MacCormick, vice-president of the Echelon committee, defended its work and stressed that the final document would stress the threat posed to individual privacy.
A breakaway group of MEPs have accused their colleagues of neglecting ordinary EU citizens in favour of big business during their investigation into America's secret electronic spying network, dubbed Echelon.
|Subject Categories||Internal Markets|
|Countries / Regions||United States|