Stop Safe Harbour now, say MEPs

European ParliamentBrussels, 15/01/2014. The EU/US Safe Harbour agreement should be suspended immediately, believed many MEPs at a European Parliament debate today.

They see the NSA’s mass-surveillance practices as proof that US companies do not comply with the Safe Harbour scheme, which in theory protects EU citizens’ data when in US hands.

“By cancelling Safe Habour we will pave the way for a new partnership with the US in the future,” said Manfred Weber (EPP, DE). “We will not tolerate that Americans and Europeans are divided into first and second-class citizens as regards their data protection,” he added, pointing out also that, “for many of us it came as a great surprise that the level of surveillance was similar to that of China and Russia.

” For Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), the LIBE committee’s inquiry rapporteur, “the thirteen recommendations [tabled by the Commission to improve the functioning of Safe Harbour] may not be enough, this procedure may lack any serious enforceability.” He underlined that, “we must treat Safe Harbour as a symbolic and practical aspect to re-build trust in our relations with the US,” and “data collected from EU citizens has been transferred to the US under lower data-protection standards than exist here in the EU.”

According to Sophie in’t Veld (ALDE, NL), “we have tolerated this situation for many many years and asked the Commission to solve it, but it did not react.” So, “why give more time now to the US and the Commission to solve this? For me we can suspend the Safe Harbour agreement today and ask the Commission, the US and companies to start working for a real solution.”

“Big data business say thank-you while EU citizens and consumers lose trust in their governments,” said Jan Albrecht (Greens/EFA, DE). “If we don’t stop the circumvention of EU laws by US companies and cancel Safe Harbour, we will not only lose the sovereignty of the European Union but also the trust of citizens in the EU.”

“The agreement says that it can be suspended if it is not properly implemented,” commented Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL, DE). “Safe Harbour is in principle a good thing but in practice it is pure fuss,” she added, “we need something binding in nature, not something that is blocked by the US.”

“National security services are there to preserve the lives of citizens. In no way [should] basic citizens’ rights be compromised. In fact, these programmes ensure the exact opposite,” stressed Niki Tzavela (EFD, EL).

The European Commission, however, defended its recommendations. “I agree that there are deficiencies …. these are the thirteen ways to improve functioning of Safe Harbour,” Commission vice-president Viviane Reding told MEPs.

“It is a to-do list and it will be up to the US government to recognise the seriousness of the debate,” she pointed out, adding that remedies should be “identified” by Summer 2014. “Then it will be up to the College of Commissioners to determine how these remedies are put in place,” she concluded.


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