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EU Fixes Agenda for Hearing on Global Surveillance
26 April 2000
The European Parliament will meet on May 4th and is expected to ratify proposals to modify international law to deal with international telecommunications espionage, and to set up a temporary special committee to further investigate the Echelon controversy.
The proposals, collectively known as the Echelon resolution, drafted by Graham Watson MEP, Chairman of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs, assert that international spying on communications should be identified as a breach of fundamental human rights.
The motion for debate in May argues that all future interceptions must "have a legal basis, be in the public interest and be strictly limited to the achievement of the intended objective . . . Any form of systematic interception cannot be regarded as consistent with that principle, even if the intended aim is to fight against international crime." It also bluntly asks that "any Member State operating such a system should cease to use it" except for proper purposes of internationally agreed sharing of information to fight serious crime or terrorism. If passed, only strictly military and defence matters would be covered under the "national security" exemption to the treaties joining Europe's nations.
The exact scope for the committee of enquiry will be settled at a meeting of high level parliamentarians shortly afterwards. Political groupings within the Parliament have wrangled over what sort of committee should be appointed, and the investigative powers it should be granted.
For more on the European Parliament Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs:
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