8Q – EU Presidency answers

8Q - MEPs answerWith one week to go before voting in the European Parliament 2014 elections, eight questions on European surveillance issues were sent to the six candidates considered to be in the running as the next President of the European Commission:

1. What rights to protection from government surveillance do European citizens have?
2. Should EU countries retain data on the activities of ordinary European citizens? If so, how?
3. Should data on the travel of European citizens be given to other countries? If so, who has access?
4. Should governments be legally obliged to notify citizens if they are placed on a watch list?
5. Do you know what your country’s government spends on the security services?
6. Should security-service budgets be hidden or transparent?
7. Who should the security services be accountable to?
8. If some European citizens are to be monitored, who decides, and how can individuals question that surveillance in Europe?

Here are their answers:

Jean-Claude Juncker
Centre-right European People’s Party (EPP)

No reply received.


Ska Keller / José Bové (answers from Ska Keller)
Greens

1. What rights to protection from government surveillance do European citizens have?

European citizens (as well as third country nationals within the EU’s jurisdiction) are entitled to a number of fundamental rights which are affected by government surveillance, notably the freedom of expression, of the press, of thought, of conscience, of religion and of association, private life, data protection, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, the right to an effective remedy and non-discrimination, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and in the European Convention on Human Rights. The professional confidentiality privilege of lawyers, journalists, doctors and other regulated professions should be noted in particular in this context.

I deplore the vast and systemic blanket collection of the personal data of innocent people brought to our attention by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Those programmes are a disproportionate interference with the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy as cornerstone for democratic societies based on the rule of law. Therefore such programmes should be struck down by Courts and rejected by politicians.

Furthermore the Transatlantic Trade and Partnership Agreement negotiations with the USA have to be suspended as long as mass surveillance of EU citizens and residents by the US secret services is not brought to an end.

The Greens have a clear line here, as opposed to the European People’s Party and Socialists whose governments are still collaborating with the US secret service as well as maintaining their own mass surveillance programmes. Furthermore (and consequently) they are not defending the rights of European citizens to be free from mass surveillance, in the trade negotiations with the USA.

2. Should EU countries retain data on the activities of ordinary European citizens? If so, how?

No, as replied to question 1, beyond the legal constraints this does not fit within the Green philosophy of what the state should be allowed to do within the context of a democratic society. Only when a person’s activities can be directly linked to a concrete suspicion of serious crime or terrorism should her/his data be retained as long as is necessary for the criminal investigation at hand. I reject a society in which data is collected, stored and processed, ‘just in case’. That society ceases to be a democratic society, but is in fact a police state.

3. Should data on the travel of European citizens be given to other countries? If so, who has access?

The European Commission and Member States have so far not provided any convincing evidence of the necessity and proportionality of the storage and processing of Passenger Name Record data, nor have they explored less intrusive alternatives.

Beyond this fundamental point the PNR agreements with the US and Australia do not meet the demands of key EU data protection principles notably:
– a purpose limitation to serious transnational crime (organized crime and terrorism) .
– limited storage periods.
– an exclusion of data-mining and profiling.
– proper access and redress rights.

As a result completely unsuspicious travellers will still be profiled, sorted into in transparent risk categories, and have their data stored for up to 15 years.

I stress my commitment to cooperate with the United States, Australia and other third countries in the fight against terrorism, but believe the blanket retention and processing of passenger name record data of all passengers is incompatible with fundamental rights as well as my vision of an open society.

4. Should governments be legally obliged to notify citizens if they are placed on a watch list?

The point of departure here is that individuals are innocent until proven guilty. In some circumstances a notification may harm the interests of the investigation. However, the person’s right to access and correct the data based on which he/ or she has been placed on the watch list should be stressed, including the possibility of judicial redress.

5. Do you know what your country’s government spends on the security services?

At the federal level, the German government spends about 800 million euro per year on security services. The German Greens aim at strictly limiting security services. Security services must be stopped from carrying out tasks which could be performed by democratically controlled agencies such as the police. The newly established parliamentary committee of inquiry on the NSA scandal, which the Greens have long pushed for, will shed light on the role of the German security service in the mass surveillance of citizens.

6. Should security-service budgets be hidden or transparent?

Security services are part of the government and as such accountable to democratic scrutiny. Any limitations on access to information regarding their budget should be strictly limited to those necessary and proportionate to defend national security. In any event Parliamentarians need to have access to all data for them to be able to conduct effective oversight.

7. Who should the security services be accountable to?

As outlined in response to question 6, security services are accountable on a political level to the government and parliament. Furthermore they have to operate within the constraints of the rule of law.

I would like to recall the long standing demands of the Greens for accountability for the CIA rendition programme operated by the USA with the complicity of several EU Member States. Those members of the secret services that have participated in the enforced disappearance and acts of torture of terrorism suspects need to be brought to justice.

8. If some European citizens are to be monitored, who decides, and how can individuals question that surveillance in Europe?

Monitoring of citizens should only be possible in case can be directly linked to a concrete suspicion of serious crime or terrorism. Such monitoring should be authorized by a judicial authority or subject to judicial review.

As Greens we have insisted that cooperation between police and judicial authorities within the EU, for instance in the context of the European Investigation Order, is based on judicial authorisation of investigative acts and respects the right to an effective remedy.


Martin Schulz
Centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D)

1. What rights to protection from government surveillance do European citizens have?

Rights to data protection and privacy are fundamental rights, guaranteed by the Fundamental Rights Charter and thus enjoy a higher legal protection than other, non-fundamental rights. Therefore, any restriction to these rights even today, i.e. a measure legitimising surveillance, has to pass the judicial test of necessity and proportionality, fulfil a legitimate aim and be coupled with sufficient safeguards for judicial redress and the use, storage, processing and disposal of any gathered data.

2. Should EU countries retain data on the activities of ordinary European citizens? If so, how?

As stated above, rights to data protection is a fundamental right, enjoying a higher legal protection than other, non-fundamental rights. Therefore, any restriction to these rights i.e. a measure legitimising surveillance, has to pass the judicial test of necessity and proportionality. I follow very closely the latest developments in the Court of Justice, when it comes to the collection and retention, in large databases, of traffic and location data that I feel can constitute a serious interference with the right to privacy contained in the EU Charter.

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested. This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes. I strongly believe that protection of private data is a cornerstone of our individual freedom!

3. Should data on the travel of European citizens be given to other countries? If so, who has access?

In case there is a justified request, with a legitimate aim, for passenger data by a third country police or judicial authority, and where this request would either have been delivered in the context of mutual legal assistance, or delivered directly by a third country authority and verified by an EU Member State judge to fulfil all necessary European norms, such data can be given to the third country requesting authority, provided that sufficient guarantees are received on the protection, use and disposal of such data.

4. Should governments be legally obliged to notify citizens if they are placed on a watch list?

This is a very legal question that pertains to each Member State’s own legal system. However, as a general principle, I think that fundamental rights should always be respected and that the right to have your data erased (‘the right to be forgotten’) as well as the obligation to fully inform citizens and get their clear consent on the use of data are of utmost importance.

5. Do you know what your country’s government spends on the security services?

I have no exact figures of what Member States allocate to their respective security services.

6. Should security-service budgets be hidden or transparent?

The issue of the operations of security services is a very national one. However, I advocate as a general principle transparency an all fields.

7. Who should the security services be accountable to?

Although, not a Union competence and taking into account very distinct national realities, the security services should be accountable to Member States’ national parliaments like all other governmental bodies.

8. If some European citizens are to be monitored, who decides, and how can individuals question that surveillance in Europe?

I believe that any monitoring or surveillance of a citizen, has to have a legitimate aim, it needs to be based on actual suspicion of illegal activity in accordance with the aim of the measure, the measure needs to be necessary and proportionate, and such warrant for such a measure needs to be validated by a judge. Proper safeguards need to be in place for such process and the citizen has to have a right to judicial redress.

I believe that national data protection [authorities] must be strengthened and receive sufficient resources to perform their tasks. They shall supervise compliance, hear complaints, assist data subjects, conduct investigations and certify technical and other standards. The national supervisory authorities shall provide mutual assistance to each other in cross-border cases and conduct joint operations. In addition, a European Data Protection Board must be created to issue opinions, guidelines and recommendations both to national authorities, as well as lawmakers. The board shall promote cooperation between the national authorities and act as a last arbiter in individual cases of consistency.


Alexis Tsipras
European Left

No reply received.


Guy Verhofstadt
Liberals (ALDE)

No reply received.


Why are these questions important?

See the following background: http://www.shoeman.eu/questions-prospective-mep/