V. Reding to naftemporiki.gr: Ι suggest the set up of a European Intelligence Service by 2020

Παρασκευή, 01 Νοεμβρίου 2013 14:39
UPD:04/08/2017 10:39
EPA/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT

European Commission’s Vice President and Commissioner for Justice and Fundamental Rights Viviane Reding

A- A A+

The establishment of a European Intelligence Agency by 2020 as a counterweight against the American NSA is proposed by the European Commission’s Vice President and Commissioner for Justice and Fundamental Rights Viviane Reding in an exclusive interview to naftemporiki.gr .

Ms Reding comments in a strict tone the revelations regarding the wiretapping of telephone communications -even those of political leaders- in Europe and stresses that the EU is reviewing the framework for exchanging data with the U.S., declaring: "once a single and coherent set of data protection rules is in place in Europe, we will expect the same from the US."

The Vice President of the European Commission also mentions that the intelligence services of the EU member-countries need to strengthen their cooperation, "so that we can speak with a strong common voice to the US". Within this context, Ms Reding supports the set up a European Intelligence Agency 2020:

“What we need is to strengthen Europe in this field, so we can level the playing field with our US partners. I would therefore wish to use this occasion to negotiate an agreement on stronger secret service cooperation among the EU Member States – so that we can speak with a strong common voice to the US. The NSA needs a counterweight. My long-term proposal would therefore be to set up a European Intelligence Service by 2020”.

"The European market is a goldmine with more than 500 million potential customers. Those who want to access it have to play by our rules. And if companies don't play by these rules national regulators will be equipped with strong powers to enforce the law: they will be able to fine companies who flout EU rules with up to 2% of their global annual turnover. The sanctions will also apply to companies who do not comply with legitimate demands from citizens to have their data erased”, says.

"The national security and data protection are not enemies. They are two sides of the same coin", concludes President of the European Commission.

The whole interview :

1. Practically, what are the margins of the EU response after the revelations about wiretapping of telephone conversations, even those of Ms Angela Merkel? What moves made by the European Commission?

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner: The European Commission is taking a two-pronged approach: First, we have put a process in place -  a transatlantic working group - that will shed more light on what programmes are used, what data are being collected and what remedies are available to citizens. We are also reviewing existing data sharing decisions such as the passenger name records, the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme known as SWIFT and Safe Harbour. The European Commission wants to see if they guarantee high data protection standards and if these are respected by the US.

Second, the European Commission has already tabled our response to fears of surveillance: a reform of the EU's data protection rules. The Commission proposed it in January 2012, a long time before the spying revelations came to light. Because what we see today is that on the basis of the US Patriot Act, US authorities are asking US companies active in Europe to hand over the data of EU citizens. The companies are faced with the decision whether to comply with EU or US law. They don't think twice. They opt for American law. In the end this is a question of power. And of solid laws. We need to make sure that companies know European law is strong and that they can face tough sanctions if they decide to break it.

Our data protection reform will make a difference and this in three main ways. First, it makes sure that non-European companies operating in the EU – American, Indian, whomever - will have to respect EU data protection law. Second, it will introduce tough sanctions that can go p to 2% of the annual worldwide turnover of a company. This is not the case today where national authorities can only fine a pittance – in some EU countries there aren't even any sanctions possible. And third, it provides legal clarity on data transfers: when third country authorities want to access the data of EU citizens outside their territory, they have to use a legal framework that involves judicial control. Asking the companies directly is illegal.

 2. The operational requirements for combating terrorism justifies to some extent the conduct monitoring by state intelligence services? Where are the limits to their action?

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner: For us Europeans, national security and data protection are not enemies. They are two sides of the same coin. Measures to ensure security are meant to protect and increase freedom. The message is clear: the fact that certain programmes are said to relate to national security does not mean that anything goes and that all other fundamental rights are overridden. A balance needs to be struck between the policy objective pursued and the impact on fundamental rights, in particular the right to privacy. It is a question of proportionality.

We need rules that allow law enforcement authorities and companies to do their job. But we also need safeguards to minimise intrusion. I believe that the data protection reform and the negotiation with the US for a data protection agreement in the law enforcement sector strike the right balance. Citizens will have the confidence that their privacy rights are protected. And law enforcement authorities can swiftly get the data they need to fight crime and terrorism. Respect for privacy rights and guaranteeing national security must go hand in hand.

 3. How can we restore trust between the EU and the US?

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner: In my view, trust can best be restored by working hand in hand towards strong data protection standards on both sides of the Atlantic. There are two things that need to be done. First, the US needs to be more ambitious in the negotiations with the Commission for a data protection agreement in the law enforcement sector. This is what we have been negotiating on for two years now. There have been more than 15 negotiating rounds. But the two fundamental issues have not yet been resolved: On the one hand, a meaningful agreement has to ensure the full equal treatment of EU and US citizens.  On the other hand, it has to give European citizens concrete and enforceable rights like judicial redress possibilities. Every American in the European Union already enjoys this right. But Europeans in America do not. We need to conclude these negotiations soon, to give citizens confidence – confidence that their rights are protected. This will contribute to restoring trust.

Second, once a single and coherent set of data protection rules is in place in Europe, we will expect the same from the US. This is a precondition for a stable basis for personal data flows between the EU and the US. Simply put: inter-operability and a system of self-regulation is not enough. The existing scheme has been criticised by European industry and questioned by European citizens: they say it is little more than patch providing a veil of legitimacy for the US firms using it. Data flows between the EU and the US must rely on a solid legal foundation on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU data protection reform will be the foundation on the European side of a solid data bridge that will link the US and Europe. We expect the US to quickly set its side of the bridge.

 4. The European Commission has also dealt with violations of citizens' personal data through the use of the Internet. What steps are being made in this area?

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner: Almost two years ago the Commission proposed to modernise Europe's already strong data protection rules – a reform which now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and by the Member States in the Council. The new law will be a Regulation, a single law for the whole of Europe – and no longer a Directive resulting in a patchwork of 28 national rules that makes life complicated and costly for companies. Companies will deal with one law, not 28. The benefits are estimated at €2.3 billion per year.

Non-European companies, when offering services to European consumers, will have to apply the same rules and adhere to the same levels of protection of personal data. The reasoning is simple: The European market is a goldmine with more than 500 million potential customers. Those who want to access it have to play by our rules. And if companies don't play by these rules national regulators will be equipped with strong powers to enforce the law: they will be able to fine companies who flout EU rules with up to 2% of their global annual turnover. The sanctions will also apply to companies who do not comply with legitimate demands from citizens to have their data erased.

The European Parliament has proposed to strengthen our proposal by making sure that fines can go up to 5% of the annual worldwide turnover of a company. It is now for Member States to show if they are ready to match the Parliament's ambition and fine those who deal irresponsibly with citizens' data.

European leaders sent an important signal at last week's European summit: after the spying scandals, data protection has become a European priority. Leaders committed to a timely adoption of a strong EU Data Protection framework. It is good to see that Prime Minister Samaras and the Greek Minister Charalampos Athanassiou are among the strong supporters of a swift agreement on strong common European data protection rules – as proposed by the Commission and as supported by the European Parliament last Monday. Adopting these rules would be Europe's declaration of independence.

 5. The European council proposed a code of conduct for intelligence services. A good idea?

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner: What we need is to strengthen Europe in this field, so we can level the playing field with our US partners. I would therefore wish to use this occasion to negotiate an agreement on stronger secret service cooperation among the EU Member States – so that we can speak with a strong common voice to the US. The NSA needs a counterweight. My long-term proposal would therefore be to set up a European Intelligence Service by 2020.

Προτεινόμενα για εσάς

Δημοφιλή