Allegations of US surveillance of Europe have rocked relations between the two just when negotiations on a transatlantic free-trade agreement were due to begin. Parliament has launched an inquiry into the Prism scandal, but many MEPs agree it will be challenging to restore trust between the two partners. We discussed the issue with former Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas, a member of the S&D group who is responsible for steering new cross border data processing rules through Parliament.
Are you satisfied by the US response or do you believe that the scandal could jeopardise the free-trade agreement with US?
Recent revelations were a real shock to Europe and European public opinion. But Europeans have the right not only to be protected, but also to be informed about what is happening. This cannot be expected from governments. That is why the role of European Parliament is even more important. We have asked to establish an enquiry and this is under way.
The free-trade agreement is very important and the EU is committed to this. On the other hand, we must not sacrifice citizens' fundamental rights.
Personally, I think the European public must be prepared to hear even more bad news. Depending on developments, we will have to decide whether there will be any consequences for the negotiations.
Media reports suggest that the US is not the only country involved in surveillance. How important it is to implement the rules in Europe and streamline legislation on this issue?
In my view, we have achieved a high standard of protection for personal data of our citizens. We should do whatever is possible to maintain that level or even increase these high standards. But we are not alone in the world and we have to deal not only with other countries, but with different ideologies and approaches towards data protection. I appeal to the Commission not to allow our high standards to be watered down.