Will EU Parliament Sacrifice our Privacy for Electoral Reasons?
Paris, 14 October 2013 – A crucial vote for EU Citizens fundamental right to privacy will take place on October 21st, in the “Civil Liberties” committee (LIBE) of the European Parliament. The future of the EU Regulation on the protection of individuals to the processing of their personal data will be decided by a vote on “compromise amendments”1. The rapporteur seems willing to request a mandate to enter closed-doors negotiations to severely cut short any chance of public debate. La Quadrature du Net calls on all citizens to contact the members of the LIBE committee to urge them to refuse this obscure hijacking of the democratic debate.
The rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht (Germany - Greens/EFA) may be about to request from the members of “Civil Liberties” committee (LIBE) a mandate for interinstitutional negotiations (trilogue). This mandate is de facto an official permission for the European Parliament to enter closed-doors negotiations with the European Commission and Member States, shortening the debate over the Regulation to only one reading2. This is especially alarming in the context of recent revelations by Edward Snowden, showing how much citizens' personal data and communications are being endangered by practices of states and corporations alike.
In pre-electoral context3, the main objective of the negotiating team4 in this manoeuvre seems to be able to boast about this Regulation being the best achievement ever reached in the field of data protection, even if that is yet far from the case and could even get worse5.
As things stand, allowing rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht to carry forward negotiations to compromise on a final text comes down to allowing the European Parliament and Member States to rewrite the Regulation without any actual public scrutiny (especially as the first four committees that have given their opinion on the text did so before Snowden's revelations). In doing so, Members of the European Parliament would avoid the heat of having this huge and controversial dossier still open during the electoral campaign and elections of 2014, but at the unacceptable price of completely shutting down the necessary public debate, therefore the general interest and defense of European citizens.
By refusing to grant such a mandate for closed-door negotiations, Members of the European Parliament would retain an opportunity to amend the text before the 1st reading vote in Plenary, and to make the text even better in 2nd reading. Betting now that compromise amendments will be acceptable, would ignore the very high risk that a last minute event turns the Regulation into exactly what giant corporations want: an open-bar to collect all of EU citizens data, without any constraint.
“Such an attempt to sacrifice a transparent debate to make the Regulation more effective at protecting our privacy for electoral purposes is a dishonor to democracy! Citizens need effective legal tools to regain control over their personal data in the face of the predatory behaviors of giant companies whose business models are based on collecting everyone's data, favouring the rise of global surveillance. Such legal empowerment cannot be achieved without a proper public debate.” concluded Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.
Citizens must contact members of the LIBE committee, and especially the rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht to urge them to refuse a 1st reading agreement with the Council and guarantee a proper public debate that will go to the full-length of what the EU procedure allows. As a citizen platform, La Quadrature du Net provides the PiPhone, a web tool allowing to call MEPs free of charge:
- 1. "Compromise amendments" stand for a package of amendments negotiated between political groups, before the official vote of the draft report in the committee responsible. The aim is to cover and replace the amendments tabled at the given stage of the procedure, in order to compromise on a common text geared to resolve the existing conflicts. If the negotiating team reaches an agreement, MEPs – sitting in the responsible committee – vote only on the compromise amendments, avoiding a long review of those amendments originally tabled. However if variances between political groups cannot be completely smoothened, MEPs can decide, at eleventh hours, not to vote on compromise amendments, but on the original ones.
- 2. The rapporteur will ask the members of the LIBE committee – on the basis of Rule 70 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament – for a mandate to enter in interinstitutional negotiations, taking the form of tripartite closed-doors meetings between the European Commission, the Council (ministers from the Member States) and the European Parliament, generally geared to adopt the act at an early stage of the procedure.
- 3. Next elections will take place in May 2014
- 4. Jan Philipp ALBRECHT (Greens/EFA), Sarah LUDFORD (ALDE), Axel VOSS (EPP), Dimitrios DROUTSAS (S&D), Alexander ALVARO (ALDE), Timothy KIRKHOPE (ECR), Cornelia ERNST (GUE/NGL)
- 5. At this point, European citizens do not have any assurance with regards to the Parliament's position on data protection. The tremendous lobbying efforts by Internet giants and the resulting 4000 amendments – a record for the Parliament! – tabled so far, make the global understanding of what the future text could look like and its potential consequences highly blurry and tangled.