The lack of progress in the Council towards agreeing on an EU data protection package in response to US surveillance of EU citizens, companies and governments was severely criticised by MEPs in Tuesday’s debate.
Rapporteurs also called on the members of the EPP and ECR group - some of whom are hesitating or threatening to vote against - to back the data protection package to be put to a vote on Wednesday.
"We have shown that this Parliament cares about citizens’ concerns about the use of their personal data. After two years of negotiations it would be irresponsible to postpone the adoption of the package. (..) The only winners would be the big data companies in Silicon Valley", said rapporteur Jan Albrecht (Greens/EFA; DE).
Rapporteur Dimitrios Droutsas (S&D, EL) expressed "dissatisfaction and frustration" at the lack of progress in the Council and made an appeal to colleague MEPs who indicated they would vote against the package: "How do you explain that you protect citizens against Google, but not against arbitrary dealings by member states' authorities?" he asked.
Looking forward to the vote on Wednesday, Commissioner Viviane Reding welcomed the package: "It will give individuals control over their own data and restore lost trust. It equips regulators with strong enforcement powers and it allows companies to exploit the full potential of the digital economy."
Members of the EPP (Sean Kelly, IE) and ECR (Vicky Ford, Timothy Kirkhope) warned that the package might hamper the work of medical researchers or scare off businesses. Sophie in 't Veld (ALDE, NL) replied: "Your opposition is irresponsible and incomprehensible. When personal data are used by national law enforcement authorities, privacy considerations should be stronger, not weaker".
Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), rapporteur on the US National Security Agency surveillance programme, said of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations that "while the Snowden revelations were emerging, we were already dealing with privacy concerns. We took Snowden's relevations and the stories in the press to ensure a most in-depth inquiry. Washington, whistleblowers, agencies, and journalists were heard. At the end of that process we understood that we have to come up with a digital Bill of Rights. Tomorrow this can be turned into the first stage of that."
You can watch the plenary debate via EP Live and EbS+ (links to the right).