European Parliament Committee Says No To TAFTA/TTIP Deal Without Respect For Data Privacy, But Fails To Offer Snowden Asylum

from the talking-tough dept

Earlier this week we mentioned that Edward Snowden has agreed in principle to contribute to the European Parliament’s inquiry into the mass surveillance of EU citizens. The body leading that is the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee, which has been interviewing many other witnesses in order to formulate what the EU’s response should be. Yesterday the LIBE committee met and agreed its final recommendations, which include some pretty dramatic demands — like this one:

Parliament’s consent to the final Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal with the US “could be endangered as long as blanket mass surveillance activities and the interception of communications in EU institutions and diplomatic representations are not fully stopped and an adequate solution for data privacy rights of EU citizens, including administrative and judicial redress is not found”, MEPs say.

Parliament should therefore withhold its consent to the TTIP agreement unless it fully respects fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter, the text adds, stressing that data protection should be ruled out of the trade talks.

If the European Parliament agrees, that could be a big problem, because on the US side, there is an equally strong insistence that data protection must be included in any TAFTA/TTIP text. But the LIBE MEPs don’t stop there; here are more potential bombshells:

MEPs call for the “immediate suspension” of the Safe Harbour privacy principles (voluntary data protection standards for non-EU companies transferring EU citizens’ personal data to the US). These principles “do not provide adequate protection for EU citizens” say MEPs, who urge the US to propose new personal data transfer rules that meet EU data protection requirements.

The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) deal should also be suspended until allegations that US authorities have access to EU citizens’ bank data outside the agreement are clarified, say MEPs. The EU-US data protection framework agreement to be struck in spring 2014 must ensure proper judicial redress for EU citizens whose personal data are transferred to the US, they add.

Without the Safe Harbor program, it will be illegal under European law for companies like Google and Facebook to take EU citizens’ personal data outside the EU, which would make it hard to run those services there. Presumably this threat is designed to encourage the US authorities to come up with something better than the current Safe Harbor system, which essentially offers no protection for the personal data of EU citizens when it is transferred to the US.

One interesting proposal concerns whistleblowers:

The resolution urges the European Commission to examine whether a future EU law establishing a “European whistleblower protection programme” should also include other fields of EU competence “with particular attention to the complexity of whistleblowing in the field of intelligence”. EU member states are also asked to consider granting whistleblowers international protection from prosecution.

But a big omission is the lack of any formal call to offer political asylum to Edward Snowden, something many people had hoped for. However, Euronews reports that the Rapporteur (subject expert) for this report, Claude Moraes, believes that offering asylum is not possible because of the way that political powers are apportioned between the European Union and its member states:

“The European Union does not have the power to grant asylum as the European Union, so this is something for individual member states,” he told euronews. “And the issue of asylum within this report therefore does not become a relevant issue for the European Union.”

Finally, the LIBE committee rapped a few national knuckles for complicity in the NSA’s global surveillance activities:

The UK, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland should clarify the allegations of mass surveillance — including potential agreements between intelligence services and telecoms firms on access to and exchange of personal data and access to transatlantic cables — and their compatibility with EU laws, it says.

Other EU countries, in particular those participating in the “9-eyes” (UK, Denmark, France and the Netherlands) and “14-eyes” arrangements (those countries plus Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden) are also urged to review their national laws and practices governing the activities of intelligence services, so as to ensure that they are subject to parliamentary and judicial oversight and public scrutiny and that they comply with fundamental rights obligations.

MEPs deem bilateral “anti-spying” arrangements concluded or under negotiation between some EU countries (the UK, France and Germany) and the US as “counterproductive and irrelevant, due to the need for a European approach to this problem”.

It’s worth emphasizing that all these demands are only recommendations at this stage: the final vote in the European Parliament will take place on 12 March, and could see amendments to any of them, as well as deletions and additions (for example, the EU Greens have said that they will try to get the European Parliament to offer asylum to Snowden then.) Nonetheless, the report sends a very strong signal that MEPs on the LIBE committee are extremely unhappy about the revelations of mass surveillance being conducted across Europe. What exactly that translates into as far as real-world actions are concerned, remains to be seen.

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Comments on “European Parliament Committee Says No To TAFTA/TTIP Deal Without Respect For Data Privacy, But Fails To Offer Snowden Asylum”

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Anonymous Coward says:

the EU parliament can’t grant asylum to snowden, because that is handled by the EU member states individually

regardless, snowden would be either monumentally stupid or playing purposefully a martyr if he went to *any* EU state considering how deep the various US agencies have their fingers in the various EU states. And does not even account for the willing and eager support these agencies have from their european counterparts.

seriously, if snowden wants to remain relatively free and safe, russia is probably his best bet right now.

And that says WAY more about the western countries then it says about russia.

Anonymous Coward says:

i hope there are some additions to the way the USA is trying to force the copyright and copyright infringement laws of the USA into the EU and on to EU citizens! i would also hope there is some ‘strong encouragement’ at the UK to stop the ridiculous ‘China-style’ censorship, which surely is in itself a breach of the privacy and freedom laws of the EU.
something that is definitely frowned on, from the text above, apart from the surveillance itself, is the association between the USA and some EU member states. although being allies, it cannot be in the best interest of the EU to have countries playing both ends against the middle. the USA wants and will always want to be top Chihuahua; that can only result in a relationship that goes nowhere!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The EU was always about avoiding conflicts. They been ignoring a lot of complaints from certain minority groups, while they supported others, just to pretend that these problems arent real. But when things get too bad they will step up. And this whole NSA charade is way too big to just ignore it. Some keep saying that this happens only because the US has too much power, but the truth is that the big heads in the EU just love to pretend that things are great, and they are willing to let some things happen

M W Lees-Gro?mann says:


The EU can’t give Snowden asylum because member states have sovereignty over their borders, over who may reside, and under what sort of protection, if any. Any single country could grant him asylum but the EU CANNOT proscribe or enforce it.

Snowden is not a citizen of an an EU country and therefore also has no residency rights in just the same way that citizens of EU nations have no right to residence (let alone asylum) in the US.

Is Mr Moody really this ignorant or just a sensationalist desperate for page views?

Anonymous Coward says:

It sounds like the MEPs don’t like their bank accounts and money transfer history being public knowledge via the international money transfer network, SWIFT. It’s recently been disclosed that GCHQ and NSA are monitoring everyone’s money transfers through SWIFT monetary networks.

The SWIFT surveillance program was only supposed to be used to track “terrorist” money. Of course, like any other surveillance program in human history, it’s being abused past it’s original “guidelines”, and scooping up everything about everyone.

“The NSA has been widely monitoring international banking and credit card transactions, a new report says referencing Edward Snowden?s leak. The agency targeted Visa customers and global financial service SWIFT and created its own money flows database.”

We can’t have the money transactions of Parliament Members being pasted all over the internet. People might start asking questions about who’s sending all that money into a Parliament Member’s offshore bank accounts, when he’s only “supposedly” paid an annual salary of ?65,738 a year.

Things will start adding up in the form of huge public backlash, if those financial details get leaked to the public! These financial details could also be used as leverage, to ensure legislators live up to their end of the bargain, and pass anti-public policies to pay back their debts to “hidden” corporate donors.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’d mentioned some time ago that the fallout would be a long time coming but it would come. Here is the first evidence that changes are in the pipes.

Merkle is planning a meeting with Hollande next week in which they plan to discuss a phone network and internet that doesn’t route through the US to connect in the EU. Since Merkle can’t get a promise from the US not to spy on it’s allies, this is likely to go through before it is over.

Google will have to step up to the plate and invest in data structures in the EU or drop out of the EU all together if it loses it’s safe harbor. I suspect this will be the start of a major push in the US to actually do something with the NSA/CIA/FBI. While the FBI won’t or shouldn’t be in the EU, their operations often overlap the other agencies and laws for one are likely to effect all.

Abby Gilmore says:


Well, this is nice tohear, but didn not the US own Privacy and Civil Rights Oversight panel tell the President to SHUT THAT WHOLE THING DOWN? Not even a peep from the US press after Congress swift booted that group through the process.

So, the civil side of the EU has spoken, now it’s time for the weak kneed politicians to respond. Like there isn’t a load of dirt on all of them waiting to drop if they dare to challenge the diggers. UK will show the bums the way.

@b says:


EU can make these arguments against NSA programmes …now how do they solve a problem like their GCHQ.

Google and Silly-con Valley can easily decentalize by biting the bullet –poor their greenbacks into– erecting silo’d satellites within the EU.

The US gov seem to be there already, already having setup their NSA-compliant GCHQ-type hubs …is the EU talking about severing those transatlantic “mass surveillance” co-operatives??

cf. Anon Coward #7:
“The SWIFT surveillance program was only supposed to be used to track “terrorist” money. Of course, like any other surveillance program in human history, it’s being abused past it’s original “guidelines”, and scooping up everything about everyone.”

Well how the hell else are spies going to learn whether their target is merely getting themselves too close a local Law or twelve (or potentially beyond a few, for at this point of proprietorial proceedings the jury isnt-even necessary, let alone selected or “out”).

These 007s need to convert suspected denizens into arrested citizens …& sure as heck wouldnt want to waste cycles (doll hairs) obtaining warrants-via-redtape; purely legally, above-board, & (in the end, the antithesis of pre-emptive public spying) “transparently”.

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