European Parliament members want member states to protect Edward Snowden
Too little has been done to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights following revelations of electronic mass surveillance, members of the European Parliament have stated in a resolution voted on Thursday. They urged the EU Commission to ensure that all data transfers to the US are subject to an “effective level of protection” and asked EU member states to grant protection to Edward Snowden, as a “human rights defender”.
This resolution, approved by 342 votes to 274, with 29 abstentions, takes stock of the (lack of) action taken by the European Commission, other EU institutions and member states on the recommendations set out by Parliament in its resolution of 12 March 2014 on the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens, drawn up in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations.
By 285 votes to 281, MEPs decided to call on EU member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender”.
MEPs welcome the 6 October ruling by the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Schrems case, which invalidated the Commission’s decision on the Safe Harbour scheme for data transfers to the US. “This ruling has confirmed the long-standing position of Parliament regarding the lack of an adequate level of protection under this instrument”, they say.
Parliament calls on the Commission to “immediately take the necessary measures to ensure that all personal data transferred to the US are subject to an effective level of protection that is essentially equivalent to that guaranteed in the EU”. It invites the Commission to reflect immediately on alternatives to Safe Harbour and on the “impact of the judgment on any other instruments for the transfer of personal data to the US, and to report on the matter by the end of 2015”. The resolution also reiterates a call to suspend the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) agreement with the US.
In general, MEPs consider the Commission’s response so far to Parliament’s 2014 resolution “highly inadequate” given the extent of the revelations of mass surveillance. “EU citizens’ fundamental rights remain in danger” and “too little has been done to ensure their full protection,” they say.
Parliament is concerned about “recent laws in some member states that extend surveillance capabilities of intelligence bodies”, including in France, the UK and the Netherlands. It is also worried by revelations of mass surveillance of telecommunications and internet traffic inside the EU by the German foreign intelligence agency BND in cooperation with the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The resolution also calls for an EU strategy for greater IT independence and online privacy, stresses the need to ensure meaningful democratic oversight of intelligence activities and to rebuild trust with the US.
Unfortunately for Snowden, the call to member states to drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden and offer him protection is not legally binding for any of them, just a recommendation.
Nevertheless, he called it a chance to move forward. “This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends,” he commented on Twitter.