Regulation of the use of spyware technologies and a partial moratorium on their use are some of the proposals in the European Parliament's draft recommendations on the subject, which it presented on Tuesday morning at a meeting of the inquiry committee to investigate the use of Pegasus software and similar surveillance software (PEGA) by the rapporteur Sophia in 't Veldt (Liberals, Netherlands).D
The draft recommendations contain specific recommendations for Poland, Greece, Hungary, Spain and Cyprus. During the discussion, no specific references were made to the case of Cyprus.
There was, however, an intense exchange of views between Sofia in 't Veld and MEP Eliza Vosenberg (European People's Party, Greece), after the intervention of the latter, in which she accused the rapporteur of defaming Greece through the drafts of the report and the recommendations . Mrs. In 't Veld replied that the mission of MEPs is not to represent their national governments but the interest of all Europeans.
The draft recommendations are the second part of the draft report presented by the rapporteur in November, which has since been split into two parts due to its size. The draft report was discussed in December and MEPs can submit amendments until 26/1. Regarding the draft recommendations, amendments can be tabled until 9/2. PEGA will vote on both texts on 26/4, and the draft recommendations will be referred to the Plenary for a final vote in June when the inquiry committee's mandate expires after the extension officially received last Thursday by the Conference of Presidents.
In the case of Cyprus, the draft recommends that Parliament ask the Cypriot government to “thoroughly assess all export licenses issued for spyware and revoke them where appropriate”, “publish the special investigator's report on the case of the “spy van” and “to fully investigate, with the help of Europol, all allegations of illegal use of spyware, in particular against journalists, lawyers and civil society actors”.
In presenting the report, Ms. In 't Veldt highlighted that the issues arising from the use of spyware include its illegal use to target the opposition, the weak regulatory framework, the trade in spyware and exports to repressive regimes. in third countries, as well as the targeting of national governments by third countries such as the alleged surveillance of politicians and journalists in France and Spain by Morocco.
Mrs. In 't Veld said that the draft contains recommendations for five countries (Poland, Greece, Hungary, Spain, Cyprus) which, as she said, do not follow the rules in different ways. At the European level, the text recommends:
– rules for regulating the use of spyware in the EU,
– rules for regulating the marketing of this software (through the more correct application of the product regulation dual (military and non-military) use,
– until the matter is settled, a temporary partial moratorium on the use of these technologies, within which the use for legitimate purposes such as counter-terrorism and the prosecution of serious crime is allowed, under certain conditions,
– public definition of national security, or at least an obligation to precisely define which cases it covers.
The rapporteur even spoke of the need for cooperation with the US, as she explained in response to a related comment, if a company goes into black list in the US and the EU this may have significant effects on its operation.
The draft also contains a proposal for the creation of a European technological laboratory on the model of the Citizens' Lab in Canada. As Ms. In 't Veldt said, even today there could be a network of research centers to undertake these tasks.
He finally referred to previous reports on the subject of monitoring which were adopted but did not bring result, and underlined that there should be monitoring of the implementation of what the European Parliament will finally recommend.
In his intervention, MEP Juan Ignacio Alvarez (EPP, Spain) stated that the EPP will present a series of amendments as, as he said, a balanced text should be approved. Hannes Heide (Social Democrats, Austria) said that what follows is that the concept of the moratorium and also of national security must be defined. Hanna Neumann (Greens, Germany), referred to the need for a body to supervise the use of spyware in which the European Parliament could also participate. Cornelia Ernst (Left, Germany), underlined that her group's position is that these technologies should be banned and called it unfortunate that there was no mission to Spain.
Eliza Vosenberg: Greece and Cyprus cooperated
In her own intervention after the completion of the political groups' interventions, Eliza Vosenberg (EPP, Greece) underlined that Greece and Cyprus cooperated with PEGA with the participation of top officials, and stressed that there is no evidence regarding Greece for official involvement in surveillance. At the same time, he expressed objections to the competence of PEGA with regard to these surveillances that are done for reasons of national security.
According to the MEP, there is now a ban on the use of illegal software which, as she said, is directed by financial interests. Noting that evidence is needed for the connection with governments, she spoke of stigmatization and slander of specific countries.
Ms. Vosenberg also objected to the recommendations made for Greece, noting that they conflict with the principle of subsidiarity as indicate a change in legislation. He also criticized the fact that members of the committee, referring to MEP Saskia Bricmon (Greens, Belgium), are conducting interviews while the drafts are being discussed, calling Greece an authoritarian regime.
In response, Ms In 't Veldt pointedly stated that she has a different approach to what the job of MEPs is, and added that she considers them to be responsible for the interests of all EU citizens, and that she is not there to attack or defend its national government. He even noted that there is a chapter in the draft for the Netherlands as well, despite the fact that her party belongs to the co-government.
He also called on Ms. Vosenberg not to easily use accusations of slander as, he said, what was recorded in the report was typed. He added that no one is saying that Greece is a dictatorship but that there are issues related to checks and balances. He added that the Personal Data Protection Authority in Greece is investigating the issue of surveillance but is threatened with legal measures.
For his part, Stelios Kouloglou (Left, Greece) said that unfortunately the scandal in Greece is who gave information to the public and not the scandal itself, as he said the media are controlled by legal means that also use funds from the EU. He also pointed out that we do not know of many cases where terrorists were caught through the use of spyware, but that on the contrary such software was used in his assassination Jamal Khashoggi.
He added that in Greece the surveillance was done against everyone, referring to the surveillance of the Prime Minister's relatives, while he characteristically said that if the Prime Minister's dog had a phone, it would be monitored.