Yesterday the parliament discussed the recent revelations from Anthony Snowden about NSA surveillance programmes.
The council made their position clear that; they are unwilling to make any concrete statements about actions they might take until they have all the facts. But they did say that, as a general principle, they are very concerned about spying operations within the EU and on EU citizens. They also acknowledged the fact that current EU legislation does not cover data usage by a foreign government and that future legislation, if it emanates solely from within the EU is unlikely to be able to deal with this problem, so an international perspective is crucial.
After the representative from the council had spoken, Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding gave a speech. Reding mentioned that High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton had spoken to Secretary of State John Kerry and expressed their grave concerns about these revelations. Reding also mentioned the difficult position this put the EU-US trade negotiations in. She said there could be no agreement without trust between the EU and the US. Reding said that the specific questions that have been put to the US are on the volume of information, parameters for the extraction and what judicial oversight there might be for EU citizens.
Reding urged member state governments and the parliament to now move forward with data protection legislation stating ‘A strong data protection regime is the only way to rebuild trust’. The fact is that the world will be looking to the EU to set the gold standard in data protection
As you might imagine, most MEPs are shocked and appalled by the allegations and are demanding action. Some members from the S&D group have demanded a freeze on EU-US trade negotiations until this is resolved. That might be going a little far, but it does illustrate how seriously we take this issue. Unsurprisingly, the Tories have a slightly different perspective, with Timothy Kirkhope and Geoffrey Van Orden coming out against the parliaments position.