EU Breaks Silence on US Surveillance Scandal

Bulgaria in EU | June 11, 2013, Tuesday // 15:17|  views

European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg, photo by EPA/BGNES

At an extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament Tuesday, a senior EU official stated that Washington should not abuse its "special relationship" with Europe.

Tonio Borg's statement was made in regard to the scandal with the secret American surveillance programs.

According to EUobserver, Tonio Borg - the Malteste Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer Affairs - told the European Parliament in Strasbourg: "Programs such as the so-called Prism and the laws on the basis of which such programs are authorized potentially endanger the fundamental right to privacy and the data protection of EU citizens."

Borg also said that when personal data of European citizens is concerned, European rules have to be followed, the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) reported.

"We have to show that we are not happy with how the US deals with the protection of personal data," he said.

Borg stated the EU Commission will demand information on the case from the US Attorney General, and that the issue will be discussed at the upcoming informal meeting of European Ministers of Justice.

The Guardian and the Washington Post over the weekend broke news that America's National Security Agency (NSA) was tracking millions of European's data.

The leak, by former NSA officer Edward Snowden, has caused an international furor.

Based on the Snowden's findings, Washington Post points the tech giants Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, YouTube, PalTalk, AOL and Yahoo as participants in the program called PRISM.

Brussels so far has only expressed vague concern about the revelations, EUobserver notes.

The European Commission has refused to respond to FISA, the law that supports the operation.

Borg now says that EU Justice Commissioner Vivianne Reding will ask the US for "clarification" on PRISM and that she will discuss the scandal with EU interior ministers on June 13 and with MEPs on June 19.

Some MEPs, however, rounded on Borg for the absence of top people in Tuesday's debate.

Dutch Liberal Sophie in 't Veld said EC Presindent Jose Manuel Barroso should have taken a helicopter to Strasbourg given the scale of the affair.

"Where is the responsible commissioner? ... Asking [data-related] questions to the commission is like talking to a wall," she said.

Borg said that Brussels understands the US security concerns. "Let's not forget who the real enemy is," he stressed, referring to anti-Western terrorists.

Representatives of almost all political parties participating in the urgent debate expressed resentment and discontent. It became clear that European People's Party, as well as the Socialists and the Liberals, find US NSA's monitoring private communications of European citizens unacceptable and outrageous.

The Greens Party went even further - they said this is not just a technical issue related to the protection of personal data, but an issue concerning the rule of law and democracy that are incompatible with such mass surveillance.

The "Europe of Freedom and Democracy" group insisted that the companies which allowed the US government to monitor their customers should be investigated and sanctioned for violating human rights.

Only conservatives urged that judgment should not be passed before the facts are clear. According to them, it should not be forgotten that the real enemy are the terrorists and that Europe has no interest in setting off anti-Americanism.

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Tags: Edward Snowden, Strasbourg, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Jose Manuel Barroso, Tonio Borg, European parliament, Brussels, Prism, Yahoo, AOL, PalTalk, youtube, Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, USA, europe, Vivianne Reding, Greens party, conservatives, European People's Party, Socialists, Liberals


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