Citizens recurrently turn to the European Parliament in order to request more protection against mass surveillance and to safeguard their fundamental rights.
The European Parliament has serious concerns about the US National Security Agency (NSA)’s activities and their impact on EU citizens’ fundamental rights and it took action immediately when allegations of the NSA’s activities became public. In July 2013 it adopted a resolution on the US National Security Agency surveillance programme and launched an inquiry to determine the impact of the NSA and other surveillance programmes on EU citizens’ privacy and media freedom.
2014 EP resolution on surveillance programmes
In March 2014 Parliament adopted another resolution on the US NSA surveillance programme, surveillance bodies in various Member States and impact on EU citizens’ fundamental rights, in which it ‘recalls the EU’s firm belief in the need to strike the right balance between security measures and the protection of civil liberties and fundamental rights, while ensuring the utmost respect for privacy and data protection’ and ‘strongly rejects the notion that all issues related to mass surveillance programmes are purely a matter of national security and therefore the sole competence of Member States’. The Parliament also set out its findings and recommendations to boost EU citizens’ privacy, notably on the discussions on the data protection reform and on the negotiations with the US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP), the Safe Harbour and the ‘Framework agreement on data protection in the field of police and judicial cooperation (‘Umbrella Agreement’). The EP press release of 12 March 2014 explained in detail Parliament’s resolution and its requests.
Follow-up of the LIBE inquiry
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), which had conducted 16 hearings in the context of the above-mentioned inquiry, presented on 24 February 2015 its working document on the follow-up of this inquiry. The document gave an overview of the developments since the vote on the 2014 resolution, including new reported allegations of organised mass spying by the NSA against EU citizens, politicians and companies.
The subject of mass surveillance of EU citizens figures recurrently on the EP agenda. MEPs and US counterparts discussed the issue of equal rights for effective judicial redress for EU and US persons in data transfer cases during a visit of the committee to Washington in March 2015. Moreover, the new reported allegations of mass organised spying by the NSA were debated in the plenary session on 28 April 2015.
2015 EP resolution
In its follow-up resolution of 29 October 2015, the European Parliament welcomed the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 6 October 2015, declaring that the European Commission’s ‘Safe Harbour’ arrangement for personal data transfers to the US is invalid, and it underlined the importance of the protection of EU citizens’ data when it is transferred to the US.
On 6 November 2015, the European Commission issued guidance on transatlantic data transfers and urged the swift establishment of a new framework following the Safe Harbour ruling.
In the above mentioned resolution, the European Parliament also expressed its concern about surveillance laws in several EU countries, and called on EU Member States to drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, in recognition of his status as an international human rights defender. Further information is available in the relevant press release and on Parliament’s thematic webpage on data protection.
The European Parliament will continue to push for the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights and for ensuring data protection and privacy in the digital age.
Do you have any questions on this issue or another EP-related concern? Please use our web form. You write, we answer.