Index 
 Previous 
 Next 
 Full text 
Debates
Tuesday, 13 December 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Data retention
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0365/2005) by Mr Alvaro, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the retention of data processed in connection with the provision of public electronic communication services and amending Directive 2002/58/EC [COM(2005)0438 – C6-0293/2005 – 2005/0182(COD)].

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the compromise reached on the proposal for a directive that the Commission put forward only three months ago is the outcome of serious, professional, intense work carried out together by the three institutions of the European Union. It is also the result of their joint determination to stand shoulder to shoulder in fighting terrorism and organised crime.

If, as I sincerely hope, this Parliament comes out in favour of the compromise that has been reached, the 25 European Union Member States will have joint legislation on the retention of telecommunications traffic data. The efforts made by the courts and the police to protect the right of European citizens to security will thus be made more effective. That in itself is an important result, an initial but fundamental step towards the gradual harmonisation of national legislations.

Furthermore, if agreement is reached, it will emphasise the fact that issues of major importance to Europe’s people may now be addressed within a Community framework and no longer an intergovernmental one. There will thus be the possibility, or rather the right, for not just the Commission and the Council but also the European Parliament to participate fully on an equal footing. I should like to state publicly here that it was due to Minister Clarke’s personal commitment and brave determination that we reached agreement in the Council on changing the legal basis to a proposal for a directive, as it is now; only a few months ago that did not look at all easy. In my view, this result – this compromise – strikes a balance between the need for security and the need for freedom. That is a key objective that the Commission and I myself have pursued.

This compromise meets some of the most important requests made not just by the Council but, above all, by this Parliament during the intense debate of recent months. We have taken account of fundamental demands, such as the protection and security of personal data, imposing penalties on the illegal use of retained data, and restricting the application of the directive to serious crimes.

I also wish to emphasise here in this House, as I have already said to the Council, that it is vital that the principles of necessity and proportionality should always be observed in applying the much talked-about Article 15 of the 2002 directive currently in force. These are important results aiming at the protection of the fundamental rights of European citizens, and they comply with the general principles of Europe’s legislative action.

Mr President, as a closing consideration at this point, I should like to gratefully acknowledge the quality of the work done by this Parliament under difficult circumstances and in a very short time, compared with the average time taken by parliamentary work. It must also be recognised that certain aspects of this subject are highly complex in legal, technical and economic terms, and the initial positions on some topics appeared to be substantively very far apart. That is precisely why I should like in particular to express my personal gratitude and appreciation for the work of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, in which I took part on several occasions, and of its chairman, Mr Cavada, and rapporteur, Mr Alvaro.

Mr President, the Commission is thus very pleased with the compromise that has been reached and recommends that the European Parliament support the compromise by accepting particularly Amendments 51 to 92 signed by Mrs Roure and Mr Kreissl-Dörfler for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and by Mr Reul for the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats.

I believe that this consensus can and must go beyond the amendments tabled by the two main groups in the European Parliament, and I am sure that an even broader consensus in Parliament would demonstrate to the people of Europe the full ability of this great institution – and indeed of the three European institutions – to work together to provide tangible answers to our fellow citizens’ demands.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Charles Clarke, President-in-Office of the Council. Mr President, I wish to begin by associating myself very strongly with the sentiments expressed today by my friend, Commission Vice-President Frattini.

I believe there has been very substantial and constructive work, both between the Council and the Commission and between the Council and Parliament. I particularly want to express my appreciation to Mr Cavada and everybody in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, including Mr Alvaro, and the leaders of the groups for the way we have worked to discuss these questions.

As we come to the end of the UK Presidency, I am very happy to have the opportunity to participate in this debate. It has been one of the most important items on our agenda and I hope that we can agree that these proposals represent a chance for all three institutions of Europe, Parliament, the Commission and the Council, to stand united in the face of terrorism and organised crime and to send a message that we are determined to work together to achieve these things.

I am proud of what has been achieved in this Presidency. We have agreed a European Union counter-terrorism strategy. We have taken steps to improve the exchange of information for law enforcement. We have adopted a strategy to address radicalisation and terrorist recruitment. We have established a European Union programme to protect critical infrastructure against terrible attacks. We have established a peer evaluation of counter-terrorism practice and development. We have adopted a money-laundering directive. We have agreed proposals to enhance the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies and we have developed a European plan of action to tackle human trafficking. In that context, let me draw attention to the fact that we have also placed the issues of migration much higher up the European Union agenda. This is a very substantial range of achievements. But I personally attach the greatest importance to the one we are debating today: the aim to achieve common standards for retention of telecommunications data.

As Mr Frattini said, this has been a frank debate – with everybody ready to participate in discussion – but also a difficult debate, because the issues of principle and the technical issues have not been at all easy to resolve. My own commitment has been to listen as widely as possible to the views expressed within Parliament and to discuss with my colleagues in the Council how we can work together. To be candid, there was some scepticism in the Council at the idea of going down the course of a first-reading deal and a process of this kind. People were not certain that it would be possible to get an agreement.

That is why today is so important. To make the statement that the European Parliament in particular, not just the Council and Commission, commits to proposals in this area seems to me very important.

The tools we are talking about, the telecommunications data we are describing, are vital to investigate and detect terrorism and crime. It is essential, in my view, to provide a proportionate and balanced legal basis for the retention of data that would otherwise be erased or anonymised. Variations in data retention practice mean that the ability of investigators and prosecutors to detect and prosecute criminals and terrorists to stop them causing harm, or to catch them after they have caused harm, is dependent on which communications service provider a suspect, a victim or witness has used or which Member State they were in. That variation gives an open goal to our opponents in criminality, and it is that we are trying to close with this directive, which I hope we will adopt today.

We have many examples, some of which I gave to the Civil Liberties Committee in September 2005, where communications data has been used to trace the members of terrorist cells, to help identify murderers and free kidnap victims and to deal with those who organise very serious crime.

The position of the Council, supported by the Commission, aims to find a compromise between Parliament and the Council, in particular, the need to balance law enforcement needs with individuals’ right to privacy by including specific rules on data protection. As amended, the directive would oblige Member States to ensure the retention of data for the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime only. This was a call that came specifically from the European Parliament. Many told us that we had to ensure that this was limited to serious crime at Community level. We have responded to that point in what is being put forward, which the Council accepted.

On periods of retention, the proposed period in the compromise, six to twenty-four months, represents a compromise between those in the Council, who wanted a much longer maximum period – and there are some in the Council who did not believe in principle that we should legislate on this basis at all – and those in the Parliament, who would have been happier with a shorter retention period. I believe the compromise will enable law enforcement authorities to obtain the data they need without disproportionately infringing privacy rights.

The Presidency took account of concerns expressed by Member States and industry and by some in Parliament about costs, particularly those incurred by storing types of data such as unanswered calls. That is why the list of data in the directive has been restricted and why unconnected call data is outside the scope altogether. It is also one reason why I supported the commitment, given by the Commission and Council, to regularly review the effectiveness of the application of the directive together with the European Parliament, the European Data Protection Supervisor and representatives of industry. This is a fast-moving picture and it is important that all the institutions work together to keep us up to date on the best way to deal with it.

As I mentioned, the Council also took very seriously the concerns expressed in Parliament about data protection and security. That is why the amendments include articles on data protection, data access and sanctions in the event of data abuse. I agree entirely with the representations made by the Parliament that data must be kept safe and secure and can only be disclosed lawfully to people lawfully entitled to see it. There should not be overall access.

I know this has been a difficult negotiation and the subject matter is technical and complex. I welcome, therefore, the requirement that the Commission must fully evaluate the application of the directive and its impact on industry and consumers.

Our right to privacy, our right to property, our right to free speech and our right to life are all threatened by terrorists and criminals. I believe that, particularly in this democracy, democratic politicians have a duty and responsibility to protect these rights through the kinds of practical measures we are agreeing here. I hope we can say at the end of this debate that we have achieved that.

I believe the Commission’s proposal, as amended by the Council and with the support of Parliament, would secure an instrument which strikes a better balance between the need to retain data to protect our citizens and the need to protect and respect individuals’ privacy.

We are embracing new technologies that offer great opportunities for learning, for doing business, for communicating. But those same technologies can be used and misused by those who do not respect the rights of others, and by their victims too. It is right, therefore, that we do all we can to deliver justice and to protect citizens. It is what they, our electors, demand of us and it is why we must act, proportionately and democratically, of course, but hopefully with unity.

I am pleased that tomorrow Parliament as a whole has its chance to express its view on the proposal for a directive. The Commission, in Mr Frattini’s excellent contribution, has already indicated its support. The Council gives its support. If you, the Parliament, also give your support, we can celebrate an historic achievement, which will send a powerful message to all European Union citizens about both our determination and our ability to combat terrorism and serious crime and the importance of the European Parliament in that fight. I believe the message that would send would be important in its own right, but it will also be important for the future arrangements within the European Union as to how we develop these questions in a positive and constructive way.

I conclude by again thanking all my colleagues in Parliament, many of whom are in the Chamber now, for the very friendly, positive, thoughtful and constructive approach they have taken in trying to debate these matters. I believe that your wisdom can take us to a new frontier of fighting crime, criminality and terrorism for the European Union as a whole.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alexander Nuno Alvaro (ALDE), rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Clarke, I am glad of your presence here, and also of that of the distinguished colleagues with whom I have had the privilege of working for over a year. You cannot, however, expect me to be jumping for joy, since the line I take differs from the one you have just put forward. For a start, I do not believe that we ever really had a decision to take on which legal basis was actually being considered, for that is obvious; there are treaties that spell it out in black and white. Moreover, the Commission also brought in a proposal, under Article 95, for a directive that would have required codecision by this House. To celebrate getting something that is rightfully ours is something I regard as derogatory to the dignity of this House, but, fair enough, I dare say that others take a different view.

Speaking personally, I believe that we knew perfectly well what we were letting ourselves in for, and we know from the legal services – including the Council’s own – that the Council would not have been well advised to take a decision. We also know that there was no unanimity at Council level, and so it made perfectly good tactical sense for unanimity to be established here in this House.

I also wish to dispute much of the substance of what you said. The decisions we took in Committee were taken together, without regard to party allegiances, and sometimes unanimously, and the amendments we drafted were excellent. A final vote of 33 to 8 with 5 abstentions accurately reflects the position taken by the second-largest committee of this House, and the only one of its constituent bodies to take a decision on the matter.

I take a different view where the time limits for storage are concerned, but you know that. I have travelled a much greater distance and have gone a long way in reaching these compromises, to which we in the Committee have agreed, in order to show some sort of backbone. Now, along comes this Article X, which makes provision for the Member States to extend the time limits for storage for as long as they like, provided that they inform the Commission and give it the opportunity to spend six months assessing whether their doing so could result in barriers to trade or disruption to the internal market – interestingly enough, not whether there might be any objections of a legal nature or from the point of view of fundamental rights. One result of this is that Poland, the Federal Republic of Germany’s much-valued neighbour, has plans to retain data for 15 years. What an interesting idea!

We have not, however, managed to come to any agreement about the costs involved. The fact that the companies and the public have to foot the bill for what the states order sets a precedent. I do indeed note the inclusion of provisions on the protection of data and of the public, as well as of sanction mechanisms, but, much as I welcome these positive steps, they require the Council to do no more than snap its fingers, since they refer to national legislation – which, as you must surely be aware, is not difficult to implement.

As regards content, we also consulted with the Commission, which took a similar line to our own, and came to the conclusion that:

‘It is quite clear that the text is divergent from our original proposal in a number of important areas. While the adoption of our proposal would have resulted in almost complete harmonisation in this area, the compromise text represents only a partial harmonisation.’

(DE) As we have not resolved the issue of the retention of data once and for all, which is what the Committee and the Commission had had in mind, I do wonder to what degree we can call this an outright success. What we have done is to hand over to the Member States a measure that Directive 2002/58 did not empower them to implement. Precisely what shape it takes is now largely for them to decide, since we have provided for an enormous degree of flexibility. I do not believe that, in so doing, we can justifiably claim to have acted as European legislators.

I also believe that there are continuing misunderstandings as to this House’s competence and future powers. A press communiqué dated 8 December from the Socialist Group ends with the following sentence:

In future all dossiers in this area will be treated on the basis of codecison with Parliament, including the revision of the present directive.

(DE) In the latter case, that is certainly true, but the idea that, in future, everything serving to combat terrorism will be dealt with in accordance with a codecision procedure, is something I find highly doubtful, since this is an area in which the Council’s decisions must be unanimous.

I also know that Ireland will take any decision we make here on appeal to the European Court of Justice, and will raise the question of whether this is possible in terms of competence; this is a very interesting turn of events. I would like, finally, to tell you that I am very disappointed with the way the procedure has gone and with the contributions made by the two big groups. I regard as in unbelievably bad taste the manner in which they behaved after we had spent eight weeks discussing these matters in great depth and considering our next steps, with everyone having given some ground, an enormous number of compromises having been made, and the Committee having come to a very clear and definite decision. I think it was in bad taste for a handful of members of the big groups to prejudice in this way a compromise proposal that the Council had not yet officially produced, there having been as yet no official negotiation with the Council on the grounds that the Council representative had, in principle, negated his own mandate and believed himself unable to negotiate! It is true to say that I am disappointed, but I look forward with very eager anticipation to tomorrow’s vote and, all things considered, will say that the willingness to work together in a rational manner will always be there. Not everyone has to find the results to their liking.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Herbert Reul (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Clarke, ladies and gentlemen, what people expect of us is that we should not cross swords over who is responsible for what, but instead ensure that their problems are resolved as speedily and promptly as possible, and what they expect of those who shape European policy is that they should not address the issue of how to combat organised crime and terrorism by simply adopting yet another resolution and going back to disputing among themselves, but instead by coming up with results. That was our problem. Here, on the table before us, we have something that might improve the situation – the retention and storage of data. It may not be the answer to everything, but it is an answer.

Our problem was that of how to protect data and how to prevent blameless members of the public being obstructed more than circumstances warranted, and in addressing it, we were reflecting people’s justifiable concerns. Rather than this being allowed to become a never-ending story, what we wanted was a prompt result. People are entitled to have results put in front of them without delay.

I can tell Mr Alvaro that it was for this reason that it was incumbent upon us, even in the short time available to us, to seek and find a solution. I will be quite frank in saying that the one we came up with is not 100% perfect, but it does help now and it does equip the police with instruments that they did not have before. It helps us to do whatever we can to ensure the protection of human life and of data on members of the public.

The Council would have moved no further; the whole thing became a never-ending tale of framework decisions and disputes. Mr Alvaro has accurately described how Parliament kept asking questions, for months on end; it got us nowhere, because the Council was unwilling to give way, until the Commission came up with a proposal that helped us to prepare the way for a consensus. What we have now is a consensus that was reached only because Parliament changed position and made the attempt to bring together various forces. That was the right thing to do, and in doing it we also gained something, in that there is now no doubt about this project’s being subject to codecision. I do not think it relevant to ask whether the same result might have been achieved in some other way and at some other time. What interests me is that this project can be completed at the end of 2005 and can thereby enter into effect.

To this instrument I say ‘yes’; to the arbitrary collection of data I say ‘no’, and that is why I say ‘yes’ to the restricted conditions that we have ended up with. Not every kind of data is included; not everything is capable of being stored, but only a very limited category, on the Internet: storage of movement data applies only to the onset of movement, unsuccessful calls are to be recorded only where this is already in place at national level. Nothing there has changed, and the countries that do not have this sort of data do not have to do this; they are not forced to do anything; they are free. We have reduced the requirements. We have set six months as the minimum period for retention – it is one about which I think we can certainly talk some more – and 24 months if the time limit is to be extended.

I still have a question to put; it is the one raised by Mr Alvaro, and one to which I would very much like an answer, perhaps from Mr Clarke. Commissioner Frattini said, in one consultation, that the 15 years being considered by Poland could not be regarded as an exception. I cannot imagine that it would be either, but I would be rather happier if Mr Clarke were perhaps to say something about this, which cannot be the answer.

I will, of course, say that we did not get the deal on costs that I would have liked us to get, but the costs issue is no longer as relevant as it was at the beginning of the process, since the types of data in the batches are no longer being considered. I do think that changes in the facts during the course of a procedure have to be taken into consideration, and that has an impact on other areas, for example on costs, which are no longer as considerable. The truth of the matter is that we have made enormous improvements to the security of people’s data as regards its monitoring and potential abuses. All the things that Mr Alvaro described have been achieved by our joint effort. It was very laborious, but now the job is done. It has now been set down – and will, it is to be hoped, tomorrow be adopted – that people are to be protected against the misuse of personal data and that provision is made for sanctions and penalties, that no content shall be stored, that access to the data shall be permitted only in cases of serious crime, and more besides. And Parliament remains a key player, with no comitology and revision after two years! The police are given new scope for action, the public enjoy new and extended protection of their data, and Parliament has extended its influence. I think people are entitled to see us taking serious the ways in which they are protected against crime.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Charlotte Cederschiöld (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. (SV) Mr President, democracy and freedom are not defended through restrictions on human rights. In totalitarian states, people are guilty until proved innocent. In states governed by the rule of law, suspicion constitutes grounds for restricting freedom. We are now debating a law that would make it possible to spy on those whom the law says are protected. At least carry out an independent impact assessment, and do so before the legislation enters into force. Human rights are not something to be skated over and neglected.

Legislate honestly. Do not pretend that what we are concerned with is terrorism if it is really a question of file sharing, national registration, taxes, trade and refugees. Do not create new problems of competition in Europe. Comply with the requirement for harmonisation in the Data Protection Directive, and act in accordance with Article 95. The measure proposed would not prevent terrorism. It would be in danger of damaging confidence in the EU if it proved to be in conflict with freedoms and rights and with the state governed by law.

If the need for the measure cannot be substantiated, it will be a case of the EU forcing the Member States to vote against their own constitutions, in which Article 8.2 of the Council of Europe Convention is incorporated. A constitutional crisis could arise. It is necessary to establish freedoms and rights in the EU’s founding Treaty before matters go too far.

I realise that it is easy to be seized by hatred towards terrorists. To tamper with freedoms and rights is, however, to give in to the attacks on the state governed by law and to depart from our values. Retain the right to privacy. Do not make large holes in our provisions for protecting data. Our European data protection is a European right to be proud of.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ewa Klamt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, Mr Clarke, Mr Vice-President, ladies and gentlemen, we will, tomorrow, be passing an important European instrument for the combating of terrorism and the most serious forms of criminality. This House having rejected the original framework decision as having been founded on the wrong legal basis, the Commission’s draft directive now provides for this House to possess the power of codecision.

Just like the Member States in the Council, we started out with very diverse views and a different understanding, but sustainable compromises emerged from our discussions. From the very outset, with quick and efficient work in mind, we negotiated with the Council on an informal basis, as is the customary procedure. What is also customary in arriving at democratic decisions is the seeking of majorities for a position and the negotiating of compromises, and those produced by the two major groups enjoy the support of a broad majority in this House.

The rapporteur, Mr Alvaro, may well find this way of going about things to be in bad taste, but it was not possible to reach any agreement with him, as he was not in Brussels during the final stage of the negotiations, but the UK Presidency was informed as soon as the two major groups had reached informal agreement on a position, and it was on this basis that agreement in the Council was made possible.

This House can claim to have achieved various successes, in that we were able to substantially reduce the number of types of data over against what the Commission had proposed. Where the criminal offences were concerned, opinions ranged from ‘applicable to all offences’ to ‘terrorism only’, and we agreed on: ‘serious crimes as defined by national law, by reference to the European Arrest Warrant’. One of our great achievements has been to incorporate data protection into the directive wherever possible, striking a happy medium between the protection of the public against serious crime and terrorism on the one hand and the safeguarding of the private domain on the other.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler, on behalf of the PSE Group. (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, despite reports to the contrary, we will not, tomorrow, be voting on the Council’s document on data storage, but on a compromise reached, and laboriously, by a majority of the members of the Committee and the Council in the run-up to the last vote in the latter. Now, for the first time, the European Parliament is involved in the third pillar, that of internal security, to which codecision applies, something that was not wanted by all the Member States, and certainly not by the government of my own. Deciding where the European level can and may influence the national level and where it cannot and may not, without, in so doing, needlessly curtailing the rights of the national parliaments and/or voiding their powers, will be a veritable tightrope walk. This is what has prompted the German Federal Minister of Justice, Brigitte Zypries, to initiate a parliamentary review.

This House has, in any case, succeeded in getting the Council to come to an agreement and in making crucial improvements to important aspects of what the Council originally produced. Data retention is one – but not the only – important instrument in combating serious crime, internationally organised criminal activity and terrorism, and some Member States are already using it – the United Kingdom, Spain and Sweden, for example. We therefore saw it as all the more important that appropriate minimum guarantees be incorporated at European level before national legislation – over which we have no influence – went much further than the present proposal.

It was, then, with considerations of cost and data protection concerns in mind that we were successful in inserting the requirement that standard data relating to the beginning, but not the end, of the mobile telephone call be stored – the operative term is ‘profiling’ – but that traffic data relating to what are termed ‘unsuccessful calls’ would not be included, except where the companies retain this data in any case. It is also left to the Member States themselves to determine the period for which data is to be stored, within a range from 6 to a maximum of 24 months. It is only where a longer period is already applicable – as in Italy, for example – that the existing rules can be maintained, and I would very much welcome some information as to what is being done in the case of Poland.

Data protection, though, has been tightened up in comparison with what was initially proposed, and national legislation continues to apply to access to data and the use made of it. My group will be voting by a large majority to adopt this compromise, even though some of us would have settled for less and others would perhaps have preferred to see rather more.

The last thing I say I shall say to Mr Alvaro, and it is this: a miss is as good as a mile!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean-Marie Cavada, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FR) Mr President, I should like, in connection with this group work, to pay tribute to the intelligence of Mr Frattini’s initial proposal and to the courage of the President-in-Office, Mr Clarke, in this area. You have been able to work while showing respect for Parliament, even though, at the start, there was nothing to suggest that this would happen.

Tomorrow’s vote is not only important, it is crucial. Firstly, because it is designed to create the beginnings of a Community framework and to leave it to the Member States’ discretion to establish certain limits with regard to the volume of data retained and the length of time it is retained in order to meet the requirements of the fight against crime and terrorism.

Secondly, because when reasonable limits are set, everyone can accept them. The minimum six-month retention period is broadly applied by telecommunications operators in managing their contracts and their marketing. This six-month limit had already been suggested by the national authorities to protect data when the first directive on data protection had been approved.

Thirdly, because Parliament wanted to demonstrate to the Council, but also mainly to its own people, that it is ready to take into account not only economic interests, but also the requirements relating to the protection of its people’s security and fundamental rights.

I myself do not know of any cases in which economic interests would take precedence over the general interest in such a tragic situation, whatever the price to be paid, and this in spite of the current legal frameworks of the treaties, which are, I might add, somewhat schizophrenic.

The Constitution would have spared us this multiplicity of pillars, but we must confine ourselves to the legal bases available to us. The Court recently half-opened a door for us; let us seize this new opportunity to draft the Community legislation that we so desperately need.

Tomorrow’s vote will undoubtedly reveal the inconsistencies and limits of the current legal situation, but it will mainly propose something new in an area that affects public opinion, which is itself capable of recognising that we work in harmony to safeguard its interests, far removed from any power struggles and legal specificities.

On behalf of the committee that I have the honour of chairing, I will conclude by stating that, in different circumstances, we are ready to rise to this intelligent challenge wisely overseen by the three parties, and I hope that this excellent cooperation between the Council, the Commission and Parliament will continue.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (NL) Mr President, I have often said in discussions here with fellow Members that the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, too, does not regard the right to privacy as sacred, and that intrusions can be justified if the measures in question prove really necessary, proportionate and effective. It is clear to me that what we need in the fight against terrorism, the fight against organised crime, is more investments in specific investigations, more investments in analysing existing data and better cooperation between intelligence and security services.

Money, even our euro, can be spent only once. Funds are currently being channelled into large-scale surveillance, the big fish, instead of those specific investigations, and I think that that really is a wrong choice.

I could have just about endorsed the storage of telephone data, and all the underlying reasons which Mr Clarke gave only pertained to telephone data, so that was nice and easy. What are we to make, though, of the plans to record the time people spend on the Internet along with their logon and logoff data? We live in an era in which people often have the computer switched on all day. Registration of that nature would therefore be rather pointless.

We in this House are always talking about better lawmaking, and then along comes this sort of nonsense. They have not even worked out the financial implications for industry. If I were to draft a proposal on the environment or social policy without thinking it through properly, that would be unacceptable, but it appears not to be a problem in this instance.

I would now like to turn to the large groups. My group was also in favour of bringing this discussion to a prompt close, namely after first reading in this House, but as, you have now done a deal with the British Presidency before Parliament has even adopted a position, we are now faced with a fait accompli.

The small groups were not even informed and even the rapporteur for this subject, Mr Alvaro, knew nothing about this. It is all very well for Mrs Klamt to say that they were unable to reach him, but Mr Alvaro has a telephone, and informing the person in question would have been the decent thing to do. What we now have is a backroom deal on citizens’ rights, and that is just not good enough. My group will therefore simply vote against the proposal.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (DE) Mr President, I regard what has gone on over recent weeks in relation to the retention of data as quite simply monstrous. Ever since the Commission produced its proposal, this House has been under extraordinary pressure of time. From the word ‘go’, we were given to understand that this proposal had to go through, come what may, by the end of the year; this alone meant that really credible and comprehensive work on it was scarcely feasible, and it is obvious that the intention was that there should not be any! As I see it, further evidence for this is to be found in the fact that we will not, tomorrow, be voting on the report by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, but are, in essence, supposed to be merely nodding through what the Council resolved on at the beginning of December.

Speaking as my group’s shadow rapporteur, let me say that I find it quite simply unacceptable that the two big groups should disregard the Committee’s vote and deliberately – let Mrs Klamt take note of this – go behind the rapporteur’s back and hatch schemes with the Council. The compromise that the PPE-DE and PSE groups have negotiated with the Council is rotten to the core and stinks to high heaven.

My group rejects the compromise proposal outright, and so I, together with Mrs Buitenweg of the Group of the Greens, have already submitted a minority report to the Committee and moved that the Commission proposal be rejected tomorrow. I propose to tell you why I have done this. I have done this because the introduction of mandatory and systematic storage of data, data obtained on whatever occasion and for whatever reason, knocks a hole through the wall that protects the data of innocent citizens who are not suspected of anything. In essence, the Commission proposal tends to place 460 million EU citizens under general suspicion. The plan for the storage of collected data goes hand in hand with blatant assaults on Europeans’ fundamental rights and freedoms, along with the threat of disproportionate restrictions on the privacy of communications and the protection of the private domain, the very essence of both of which is at risk. The freedom of the press, and its protection of sources and informants in particular, is jeopardised, and I doubt – let my German fellow-Members take note – that this would bear scrutiny in the light of the German constitution.

The object and purpose of this measure remain unclear to this day. Even now, no evidence has been produced to support the belief that serious crimes can indeed be more successfully cleared up with the help of a vast mass of stored communications data of the widest possible variety. Yes, of course, the law enforcement authorities have to be equipped to combat terrorism and the graver types of criminal activity, but that does not justify disregarding the rights of the individual and collecting – in a situation in which it is not absolutely necessary to do so – data and information and collating and exchanging it, to the point where, in the not-too-distant future, every detail of our citizens’ lives will be laid bare.

Is, then, this Europe of ours to become an Orwellian surveillance state? I, for one – particularly as a Member from the eastern part of Germany, will have no part in any such thing. Citizens under general suspicion, combined with the obsessive collection of data and information to which the police and secret services then had access at any time – there was a time when people, quite rightly, took to the streets in demonstrations to rid themselves of this sort of political thinking, and it is a good thing that they did!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Georgios Karatzaferis, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, there is a difference between you and the honourable gentlemen sitting on the front benches: they are selected by their governments to serve authority. You are elected by the people to defend democracy.

What do the selected come and ask of us, the elected? That we tie down our peoples, that we overturn the right of free speech. That is what they are asking of us. Shall we do so? Just imagine if this technology had existed in 1940 and if Hitler had had this directive in his hands. He would have killed far more than the 6 million Jews. Just imagine if the Stalinist regime had had it in their hands. It might still be doing the same. That is what they are asking us to do today, at the expense of the people of Europe. We must not allow it.

They tell us, 'for the sake of combating terrorism'. In other words, Bin Laden and his ilk will use public telephones, they will buy prepaid cards and, if they want to use the Internet, they will go to an Internet café to do so. What are they talking about and who is the final recipient? The final recipient will be the CIA. Will you hand the peoples of Europe over to the CIA? Think according to conscience, not according to the instructions of your groups or parties.

Long live freedom!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – For your information, I would point out to you that, contrary to what you might think, everything that you say today is remembered forever and retained forever as it is all filmed and recorded.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Romano Maria La Russa, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Parliament and the Council have made an admirable effort to reach agreement at first reading so that an urgent measure to tackle terrorism and crime can be adopted swiftly.

I have always been of the opinion that, when faced with a recurrent threat to undermine world peace and stability, people will, under exceptional circumstances, willingly accept restrictions to their privacy if the other side of the coin is greater peace of mind and security. I believe that it is legitimate to temporarily restrict privacy when it may be for the good of society.

I think we can in any case be pleased with the positive compromises that have been reached, despite the customary obstructionist attitude of a certain part of the Left, which often pays lip-service to safeguarding individual freedoms merely for convenience’ sake. It calls for freedom and security for the people but then does not follow it up with concrete action, thus showing that it is more interested in demagogy and facile propaganda.

I think it has been shown that targeted, restrictive measures are needed in the fight against terrorism, in keeping with the principle of proportionality. The outcome of these negotiations will, in my opinion, be a directive of undoubted importance if it also includes the corrective measures on which the EU ministers have already reached agreement. The directive would combine rigour with the protection of civil liberties, by ruling that data may be retained for long periods, while, at the same time, containing a series of provisions designed to regulate aspects relating to protection, laying down penalties for those who use such data illegally. The directive would allow Member States to decide whether to retain data on unanswered calls, while providing for technical restrictions to keep down the cost of doing so.

In this regard, I should like to mention the example of Italy, one of the few Member States already to have adopted specific legislation on data retention. Since Italy’s legislation is proving effective, I think it is acceptable for data to be retained for two years, if particular circumstances so require.

I therefore hope that Italy, which is always willing to share its experience, can keep its own legislation in the context of the harmonisation of the various national systems. Its legislation has been proved effective and, above all, the Commission has acknowledged the fact by saying that Italy could submit a derogation notification.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Irena Belohorská (NI). – (SK) The report by Mr Alvaro is of exceptional importance, and particularly today, when the entire population of Europe faces the daily fear of terrorist attacks. The attacks in London and Madrid alarmed the population because they hit civilian targets and unsuspecting citizens on their way to work, school or hospital.

On the one hand, people are threatened by those who employ terrorism as a means of fighting against governments. On the other hand, however, governments use people, or infringe upon their right to privacy, when combating terrorism. We cannot allow people to be monitored in the manner of Big Brother-type TV shows.

People elect governments in order to free them from having to decide on day-to-day public affairs. Governments, however, have no right to use people’s privacy as a public affair. That is why I think the report should be amended, placing greater emphasis on the obligations of the state with respect to the implementation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns the right to privacy, so that no part of the proposed directive may be in contradiction with this Convention.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, the issue we are debating today is one of the most difficult and important issues, because we are being called upon to strike a balance between the right to personal freedom and the right to public security.

I consider it a huge success, which is due to the efforts both of Parliament and of the Commission and the Council, that the initial draft has been improved considerably. It leaves the Member States a great deal of room for manoeuvre, firstly to define periods of data retention of between 6 and 24 months; secondly, to define the offences for which they will use this information and, thirdly, for the law enforcement authorities to have access to this information, for which prior permission must be obtained from the courts.

These changes are most important and might have encouraged me to waive the objections I formulated from the outset, given that all the amendments which I proposed have been accepted. However, despite this, I cannot vote in favour, because I believe that these measures alone will prove to be totally ineffective in practice. It is certain that criminals will easily circumvent them or will find other means of communication and will thus achieve their criminal objectives, while the measures will remain in place. In addition, we need uniform and unanimous action by the global community, better coordination of measures, proper evaluation of data and, more importantly, improved cooperation between the national law enforcement authorities.

Finally, as the European Data Protection Supervisor says in his report, the technical difficulties in the application of the measure are insurmountable, and that is why I cannot vote in favour.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Martine Roure (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Frattini, Mr Clarke, we tried to take the heat out of the debate, but doing so was extremely difficult. I believe that things need to be made clear and the truth told. A directive is required in the area of data retention, as all the data related to trafficking is already retained and used by the law enforcement authorities in the large majority of the Member States. That is the truth, and that is why current practices are in urgent need of regulation to ensure that Europeans are better protected.

The debates on this report have been very difficult. I am therefore pleased and proud that my group is in a position to support the compromise proposed by the Council, not because we are ready to accept just anything but, rather, because my group was able to maintain its firm stance throughout the negotiations in order to secure the better protection of Europeans. Limiting the scope of the directive so that it includes serious crimes, protection of data security, access to data and the recourse to criminal sanctions for misuse of data – these are real achievements!

We made our requirements clear and we did not give way. Admittedly, what we have here is a compromise, and we too would have hoped to have taken things further. That is why, I might add, we tabled an amendment to the legislative resolution providing for access, in the third pillar, to be regulated in the framework decision on data protection. I myself am draftsman for this framework decision and I will submit my draft report to the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs at the start of 2006. We consider that this is a reasonable compromise, which allows a balance to be struck between the protection of fundamental rights and the fight against serious crime and terrorism.

Finally, an agreement at first reading, under codecision, is a victory for the European Parliament. Our institution proved that it was mature enough, and we can be proud of this outcome. I would in fact point out that, at first, we had rejected the framework decision on data retention as it precluded all democratic debate. We have opened the door for the years to come. All matters pertaining to this same area – I repeat – will be dealt with under codecision with Parliament, not least – I would emphasise – the revision of this directive, which will most certainly be carried out, as technologies evolve rapidly.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, Mrs Klamt said earlier that she was unable to contact the rapporteur, and I can understand her being increasingly hesitant about picking up the phone or sending him an e-mail.

Being opposed to the compromise struck by the two big groups, I shall endorse the rapporteur’s line. Do the proposals that are now before us make our world a safer place? No, we are, to a great extent, being lulled into a false sense of security, because the proposals are not proportionate. They are ineffective because they are easy to circumvent. They offer insufficient guarantees for the protection of innocent citizens and finally, they offer insufficient guarantees for good cooperation and exchange between the Member States, for that is the key to effective policy, and we still have not seen enough results.

The Council has reluctantly agreed to codecision but I have to tell Mr Clarke that codecision is not a favour; it is a democratic right, and the Council’s democratic instincts are not terribly deeply rooted, to put it mildly. I would like to say to the Council that pushing this legislation through in a hurry is not a judicious way of going about things and is not, therefore, in keeping with the ‘better lawmaking’ that we are always talking about.

I have to admit, therefore, that I am disappointed to see how the critical stance of this House has, in the past four months, melted like snow in the sun. Sadly, I have to say that the compromise, which will undoubtedly be accepted tomorrow, does not make me feel any safer.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Giusto Catania (GUE/NGL). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I was wondering why the UK Presidency wanted to fast-track this directive at all costs. Clearly, its keenness to achieve at least one result in this disastrous presidency has also determined the debating time for this directive. I should like to express my solidarity with Mr Alvaro because I believe that the compromise amendments tabled by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats have made the text put forward by the Commission worse. Basically, they demonstrate two things: first, Parliament’s subordinate position in relation to the Council and, secondly, that the major German coalition also casts its shadow over this Parliament.

I believe that this directive is disproportionate, because it places security above freedom and democracy. We are faced with a slow, gradual and inexorable shift away from the rule of law towards a police state, and this Americanisation of the European Union has to be stopped by every possible means. We have asked a single question: ‘Can you demonstrate to us that data retention can curb terrorism?’ We have not been given an answer.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Johannes Blokland (IND/DEM). – (NL) Mr President, in early October, it became apparent that more than 200 officers of the Rotterdam police force tried to read the dossier of the ex-Feyenoord player Robin Van Persie. The computer denied them access but did – since ‘Big Brother is watching you’ – record their names. So the database contains the names of not only well-known citizens who are suspects in criminal cases, but also police officers. What worries me the most in this proposal is the misuse of databases by staff of the competent authorities.

My fundamental objection to this proposal is that the long-term storage of data on every citizen not only encroaches upon their privacy, but also means that they are, in fact, being treated as suspects, yet without having the rights that suspects enjoy. Is this remedy not worse than the disease? In the absence of any proof as to the effectiveness of this proposal, I should like the Commission and Council to spell out clearly how this directive will be tested and evaluated.

Mr Alvaro has done an excellent job as rapporteur, and the deal struck between the major groups without reference to the House is unprecedented in its serious undermining of our working practices. I endorse the rapporteur’s line and I should like to finish by quoting George Orwell’s words to the effect that ‘Some groups are more equal than others’.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Brian Crowley (UEN). – Mr President, I would like to join with my colleagues in thanking the rapporteur for the work that has been carried out on this very difficult matter. Listening to the debate here today, I am somewhat reminded of 9/11 and the bombings in Madrid and London. This Parliament rightly objected very strongly and criticised all those who were involved in terrorist acts, called for solidarity amongst Member States and amongst all the institutions of the European Union and sought to ensure that we could cooperate to fight the evil of terrorism.

One of the ideas to emerge is the question of data retention. Sometimes when we hear the differing voices in the course of the debate, we have to return to the following fundamental principle. Firstly, democratically elected governments have come together and agreed on a proposal; secondly, the Parliament of the European Union has come together and will hopefully agree on these proposals; and, finally, the desire to ensure that accountability – ensuring that the guardians and custodians are watched over by others – is being borne in mind. I think everything is contained within this overall report to ensure that we can give those guarantees to individuals.

Let us not forget that every time we use a computer, whether it is to buy Christmas gifts or to book flights, data is already being retained by companies on those websites to target marketing and other products towards us. What is emerging here is not a new alien creature: information is already being stored via cookies. There is no control over that.

The one concern I have – and maybe the Commissioner or the President-in-Office of the Council could respond to this – is doubt with regard to the legal basis for this directive. There has been some dispute, as this is an issue dealing with counter-terrorism and serious crime, over the fact that it should be done under a framework decision and not a directive. There is a potential clash of legal opinion in this regard.

It is important to preserve the rights of Member State parliaments and governments to ensure that existing legislation in these areas can be maintained. We all know that citizens prefer to deal with their own government, rather than the European government, to protect their rights and guarantees, so it must be a balance between the two.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, instead of protecting the citizen’s rights and his private sphere, the confidentiality of data relating to telephone and media use is being more and more undermined, and this is of course done always and only in the service of the noble cause of counter-terrorism. I simply wonder why it is that more and more action is being taken against inconvenient journalists, and in what way the private citizen is protected when the non-conformist elements in our society get to feel the heavy hand of state power.

The real criminals, organised in gangs and terror groups, are not only planning their acts further ahead – which makes plans for a time-limit on retention obsolete – but are also constantly finding new ways of evading prosecution by the state. I do not believe that this new surveillance measure will do anything at all to prevent terrorist acts; on the contrary, it endangers those who have access to confidential information – doctors, lawyers, and journalists, for example – in the practice of their professions, and unashamedly makes incursions into the private domain of countless members of the public.

If the retention of data is to become another step on the road towards the total surveillance state, then I regard as indispensable a minimum of protection for the citizen, in the shape of sanctions that really have teeth in the events of the data thus stored being misused.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS KAUFMANN
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE).(PT) Madam President, Mr Frattini, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, the March European Council and the Justice and Home Affairs Council of April 2004 advocated the implementation of standards relating to the retention of data, given that modern telecommunications, with all of the benefits that they bring, can be used for the purposes of international crime, and, more seriously, terrorism.

Following these decisions, a framework decision was presented to us and was rejected by Parliament. This was followed by the proposal before us, which, as Mr Cavada said, is a welcome one in that it takes account of Parliament’s prerogatives through a proposed new legal basis. I must express my disappointment, however, that we were forced to work within a severely truncated timeframe. We did our best in the circumstances. The negotiations were difficult and the compromise that was reached is far from perfect, yet we did what we had to in order to reach a compromise at first reading.

Unlike some Members of this House, I welcome the decision on a period of retention of six months minimum to 24 months maximum. We cannot run the risk of backsliding in our efforts to fight crime because data were eliminated too quickly or were not retained at all. It is crucial in my view that data be stored securely and that there be no room for abuse; the rules on data protection, security and access must be strengthened. Member States must establish appropriate penalties, in line with their national laws.

If we fail to implement these rules effectively, we will be endangering people’s human rights. We need a clause ensuring that within three years we assess the system that we are currently adopting, and in this regard I welcome the calls for transparency and for the Commission’s eventual assessment to be made public. I trust that this assessment, to be provided by Mr Frattini, helps us to make a rigorous assessment of the effectiveness of the adoption of these instruments.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Catherine Trautmann (PSE). – (FR) Madam President, finding a balance between the protection of people’s private lives and the retention of personal data in order to respond to the terrorist threat is difficult because the temptation is so strong in our Member States to transform exceptional measures into general rules.

The compromise reached with the European Parliament is a positive step, but it should not make us lose sight of the objective of having a directive providing a legal framework and identical guarantees in all countries, for all citizens.

I emphasise the recommendations made by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy in relation to businesses. Businesses must neither become an instrument for governments to monitor their citizens, nor be hindered in their work, and their cooperation must go hand in hand with strict guarantees, not least in relation to the full reimbursement of extra costs.

Finally, it is vital that the arrangement be as well adapted as possible to the functioning of the Web and that it hinders neither the development of the Internet nor access to ICTs in the Union. Neither can do without its freedom.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – Mr President, the present national variation that Mr Clarke says gives an open goal to criminals will persist and even grow under the Council Conservative-Socialist deal. It is a pretext for gold plating to allow, for instance, the 15 years storage that Poland wants, a wider list of data used for purposes far removed from law enforcement and access for any public or private agency, and all with a convenient Brussels stamp of approval.

In contrast, the agreement of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is a reasonable and proportionate response to fighting terrorism. If MEPs tomorrow accept the Council take-it-or-leave-it deal, they will have fallen victim to a vast con trick. This Parliament could give up any pretence to care either about civil liberties or about European business competitiveness. It is not too late for individual Members to rebel against the sell-out agreement by their leaders to a charter for mass surveillance and state snooping.

Finally, I deplore the attacks on Mr Alvaro; he delivered a resounding near-consensus in Committee. To use his three day absence on an official trip to Israel at the end of a phone and fax is a cheap alibi for a stab in the back by Mrs Klamt and Mrs Roure.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, the proposal for a directive being debated reveals in a characteristic and, I would say, cynical manner the character of the European Union itself, which has no hesitation in abolishing – I repeat abolishing – and not, in your words, restricting the personal and democratic rights achieved as a result of the fight of the peoples.

In this particular instance, it is abolishing – I repeat abolishing – freedom of communication, personal data protection and privacy. It is abolishing the core of confidentiality of communications. It is safeguarding and introducing legislation imposing across-the-board monitoring. Everyone is under surveillance and provision is even made for criminal and administrative sanctions for companies which fail to comply with monitoring. The breadth of monitoring includes every detail of communication and the impudence of the directive is so great that it calls on those being monitored to pay the cost of monitoring. Apart from anything else, the directive also infringes constitutional provisions, for example of the Hellenic Constitution, and provisions of international conventions and obviously paves the way for abolishing personal rights and freedoms.

We reject the draft directive, which will not brook improvement.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bogdan Pęk (IND/DEM).   (PL) Madam President, this debate centres on an issue that is of supreme importance for all of mankind. For many years now, Members of the House have reiterated the point that freedom is mankind’s most valuable asset, and that human civilisation cannot develop properly without it. It is true that terrorism must be fought by all available means and methods, but such a fight must not be waged at the cost of human freedom.

This directive does not in any way accomplish the goal it sets itself. Technologies are already in existence that will make it possible for genuine terrorists and genuine criminals to be highly successful in avoiding checks. What the directive will do instead is help bring about the total surveillance of millions of free citizens.

I should like to remind the Commissioner that such data will inevitably leak out. I also have to say that the Commissioner is a hypocrite. The comments he made yesterday before the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, when defending himself against accusations that the CIA had transported a number of terrorists to Europe and interrogated them there, were of a very different tenor. Today, however, he has come out in support of a solution that quite clearly curtails civil liberties.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (PPE-DE). – (ES) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Vice-President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by expressing my satisfaction with the agreement finally reached on an issue that is so complex from technical and political points of view.

Much has been said about the implications of this issue in terms of restricting freedoms, but disguising powerful, unacceptable and worrying economic interests; a proposal that has been the subject of successive and complex debates, with voices against, but also with powerful and justified voices in favour. I know that it has been difficult and also that the agreement contains significant concessions and abdications.

Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to disagree with those people who do not feel that the measure is timely, effective or proportionate. Whether we like it or not, our society of values is under threat and, whether we like it or not, the instruments available to us so far have not been entirely effective in dealing with this threat. I therefore applaud the initiative that we are debating today, ladies and gentlemen, as I have always done, and I hope it will receive the majority support of the House.

Security over freedom, no. I would say: infinite freedom, but with security; and that is simply because without security we cannot fully enjoy our freedoms. Terror and crime exploit our doubts and hesitations and seek out our weakest points so that they can attack our societies. We must fight them with all the power of our democratic system, a system that always advocates the full observance of legal guarantees. To doubt that this is the case is to call into question, ladies and gentlemen, the work done by our judges and police and is to doubt the vitality of the democratic system.

The victims deserve all of our efforts. And unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, I have not heard anybody talk about them this afternoon.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stavros Lambrinidis (PSE).(EL) Madam President, today's compromise abolishes all the protections imposed by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and is a monument to non-harmonisation.

With what is now the standard pretext of combating terrorism, the Council is harmonising just one thing: the obligation for data to be retained which are currently retained voluntarily, in the expectation that a few criminals will be caught in this way. At the same time, it refuses to make provision for anything tangible in order to protect millions of innocent citizens and their rights. Thus, while Mr Clarke is talking about harmonisation, his proposal leaves the exemptions in Article 15(1) of the previous directive untouched. As a result, the Council is giving the Member States the go-ahead to retain any information they want, for any purpose they choose and for any period of time they consider expedient, without the slightest material European presence, restriction or control.

My party, PASOK, will be voting against.

President-in-Office, on a personal note, it has been a great pleasure to work with you, both professionally and personally. This is not personal, this is political. What we have in the end is a proposal with a roar for police access and with a whimper for the protection of fundamental rights. It is shame that we missed this opportunity.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Madam President, the reasons given for this directive are the usual ones about the fight against terrorism and organised crime, but this is a red herring. Governments already use the most sophisticated means to monitor national and international communications. The United States of America has the Echelon system that enables it to intercept every form of international communication. The British Government has GCHQ in Cheltenham. Terrorists and organised criminals are well aware of this and do everything they can to avoid being tracked and caught by these means.

This directive is really about formalising the creation of a surveillance society and the control of individuals. More and more powers are being concentrated in the hands of the state, at the expense of the individual. The UK Presidency is trying to use this Parliament to implement a policy that has already been rejected by the UK Parliament. This directive represents another step on the road to a police state. I hope this Parliament will reject it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Barbara Kudrycka (PPE-DE).   (PL) Madam President, there can be no doubt that regulations on data retention can help us a great deal in our fight against terrorism and dangerous crime. The efforts of all those involved in achieving a consensus on this issue should therefore be acknowledged. At the same time, however, I have serious doubts about the interpretation of Article X of the Directive. The period of data retention may be extended to more than two years pursuant to this Article, provided that the appropriate procedure is followed.

Mr Clarke responded to a Polish journalist who had asked whether a data retention period of 15 years would be permissible by saying that a period of this duration would still be compatible with the directive, even in such extreme cases. The draft amendments that have been tabled to the Polish Telecommunications Act by the governing party in the Polish Parliament do in fact provide for a retention period of 15 years. As I see it, this is a test of sorts of the scope of the directive’s application. I do not believe that a 15-year retention period is compatible with the concept behind the directive, the aim of which is to protect individuals’ right to privacy. A retention period of this duration also blatantly violates the principle of proportionality, and means that the directive’s impact will not be commensurate with its goals. Furthermore, there is a risk that procedures resembling those of a police state could be used, which would further the government’s short-term political goals while subjecting citizens to long-term and far-reaching surveillance. There is every chance that data stored in such large quantities for such long periods could leak out. This would provide criminal groups with even more opportunities to use it, which runs counter to the directive’s fundamental goal. I should therefore like to receive a clear answer from the Commissioner, and also from the Council representative, to the question of whether the Commission regards a 15-year data retention period as acceptable in line with the procedure outlined in Article X.

I hope that Mr Clarke’s response to the Polish journalist was founded on a misinterpretation of the directive, although it may well be the case that he has made some sort of concession to the Polish Government on this matter in order to achieve a compromise at any cost. Since we are adopting joint regulations, however, we have a right to call for them to be interpreted similarly by all of the EU institutions.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Michael Cashman (PSE). – Madam President, this is a very difficult debate because, interestingly, groups that are normally homogeneous are split; political allies who normally work with one another are split. I have absolute respect for those who have their reservations about that which is being proposed. I ask that they have respect for those of us who believe that this is a way of protecting fundamental freedoms. It is important to restate that this is not about the data within the calls or on the internet; it is about traffic data, and it is arguably to allow us to protect fundamental freedoms.

Of course, there are costs; there are costs to businesses, there are costs to each and every one of us, but the cost if we do nothing is cataclysmic. We have to deal with the real and imagined threats. There are people who use the Internet to entrap young women and children into prostitution rings. If we can break one prostitution ring with this directive, that alone would have been worth it. I and my group are proud that we have achieved a compromise that delivers and protects fundamental freedoms.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, the Council and the Commission have recently come to an agreement on the retention of stored data, and I am glad that it has proved possible, following long and intensive negotiations, for a compromise also to be reached between this House, the Council and the Commission. This compromise is one that I can support. I would like to take this opportunity to extend especial thanks to those who conducted the negotiations on Parliament’s behalf, for they really did do their utmost. We must also, though, be aware that we find ourselves caught between the desire to protect fundamental rights and the need to fight against international terrorism and organised crime.

I am also, in principle, glad to see the obligation imposed on telecommunications enterprises to store certain traffic data for the purpose of combating organised crime. While I do believe that a three-month limit on their storage would have been perfectly sufficient, we do now have this compromise, and I find the flexibility acceptable. Our democracies cannot, and must not, aim to make everything in a person’s life visible; whatever needs to be done in the fight against terrorism, the principles of the rule of law must be upheld, and so I very much hope that we, in Europe, will at last line up together to fight terrorism and organised crime.

In the same way that the international organisations opposed to law and order are interconnected, we too must combine and fight them together. I very much hope that we need never again experience such tragic events as those that occurred in Madrid and London.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rosa Díez González (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, I would like to address those Members who have spoken against this compromise. We are worried about abuses, but we are also worried about a lack of protection for citizens.

Since democratic society is made up of personal restrictions and personal abdications, I would like us to consider one question: how much individual freedom must we surrender in order to guarantee fundamental rights, freedoms and collective security?

I believe that the immense majority of citizens are prepared to surrender some of their freedom for a certain amount of time, provided that equality is not affected and provided that democratic control and prosecution and punishment of any abuses is guaranteed.

We must not choose between security and freedom. There can be no freedom without security. Ladies and gentlemen, I know what I am talking about: I have been living with bodyguards for fourteen years. It is not possible to be free if one cannot take one’s children to school, if one cannot walk the streets, if one has to look under the car in order to safeguard one’s daily life.

Freedom and security are part of democracy. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not neutral. I am passionately in favour of human rights. I would therefore ask you to support this directive and this compromise.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Madam President, from a Finnish perspective, I must say that I am slightly worried about the British debate here because, on the one hand, we have Mrs Ludford from the Liberal Democrats who agrees with Mr Batten from the UKIP Party and then you have Mr Cashman who is widely applauded by the British minister. It is not very often that you get applause from a British minister in the European Parliament, so Mr Cashman should be congratulated for that.

Nevertheless, I wish to make three brief points. The first concerns the balance between freedom and security. We have taken the issue too lightly and we are not finding the right balance. Perhaps we are rushing things. I have heard people say that those who come from countries where terrorism is a threat must take this issue in a different way to those from a country where there is no threat. I disagree: this is a common problem and we should all look at it from a broader perspective.

My second point concerns cost-efficiency or efficiency in general. To me it seems that we have to calculate every piece of legislation carefully, we must make an estimation and base our legislation on that. I do not think we have done that yet. We have not gone far enough in trying to estimate how much this legislation costs. I think we are also chasing the wrong crooks, because if you are a crook who does not have the brains to use hotmail or prepaid mobile phone networks, then you are a stupid crook and we are really chasing the stupid crooks.

My third and final point concerns procedure. It might seem that I am against this whole initiative, but I am not. What came out of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs was quite good. It was a good compromise. Therefore I would urge this European Parliament not to be bullied by the Council or the UK Presidency but to find a compromise and push it through.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Edith Mastenbroek (PSE). – Madam President, I should like to focus on the internet part of this directive.

Mr Clarke, you think that the lack of massive quantities of traffic data is a threat to our security. I disagree. Practice shows that it is the lack of online security that offers unlimited opportunities to criminals and terrorists. I will give you a practical example.

Last month, a group of three criminals who control a network of over 100 000 hacked PCs was rolled up by the Dutch police. Control over those unsecured PCs gave the criminals the power to perpetrate all kinds of crimes, from massive identity theft, attacks on vital infrastructure and the unlimited opportunity to grant anonymous access to and use of all services of the internet, for whoever was willing to pay.

Imagine what could happen if these men offered their services to terrorist networks. Imagine also how useless traffic data is, because it points at innocent people. The methods used to track these criminals down are specified in the Cybercrime Treaty, which has been signed by all Member States but implemented by only a few. It is those methods that we need to fight terrorism.

It is indisputable that this directive is intrusive. It is questionable whether it will help. On the internet side, it is even technically unfeasible. I completely agree with my colleagues Mrs in't Veld and Mr Lambrinidis. I fear a false sense of security. I fear that part of this directive could even pose a threat to our security.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  András Gyürk (PPE-DE). – (HU) When we debate the draft legislation tabled before us, we must take into account four issues. Firstly, human rights must be upheld. Personal data protection must be guaranteed in all circumstances. Secondly, when crimes are committed with the use of new technologies, we cannot leave European criminal investigation agencies without the necessary resources. Thirdly, bearing in mind the importance of competitiveness, we cannot place unacceptably high and unjustified burdens on the service industry sector. And fourthly, we should only resort to the use of European-level regulations in areas where Member State regulations are less efficient. To summarise it briefly: human rights, efficient criminal investigation agencies, competitiveness and subsidiarity. These are targets we can probably all agree with. Our orders of preference may be different, and they are indeed different even within our factions, as clearly proven by our debate today.

Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to share a personal reflection. As a young Hungarian MEP, my memories of the Socialist autocracy had been accumulated when I was very young, but I remember the recurring warning my parents gave me whenever I tried to talk politics on the phone: ‘This should not be discussed on the phone!’ Everybody knew that the dictatorial authorities were monitoring telephone conversations. This may sound familiar to my fellow Eastern and Central European Members. I cannot deny that, partly due to this memory, my order of preference has the protection of personal data in the first place. Therefore the only compromise I find acceptable is one that upholds to an equal extent all four aspects mentioned above. A compromise that – while leaving room for manoeuvre for Member States to make their criminal investigation agencies more effective – does not affect human rights.

One last thought: due to the sensitivity of this issue, the newly created legislation cannot be set in stone. I believe that a periodical review of the directive would be justified, particularly in respect of the range of data required by the authorities.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Inger Segelström (PSE). – (SV) Madam President, when, tomorrow, plenary votes on a minimum directive on data retention, we shall do so by means of an agreement with the Council and the Commission in which Parliament has the right of codecision. Citizens put the fight against crime and terrorism high on the list of what the EU should tackle successfully.

People also want us to solve problems jointly, and that is something in which we have succeeded. We have protected personal privacy and human rights. Moreover, European police forces are being given modern aids to combat crime, including organised crime such as child pornography, the drugs trade, terrorism and trafficking in women and children for the purposes of prostitution. That is something I am very pleased with, so I wish to thank everyone very much for their constructive cooperation. We must succeed in these areas together. We must also monitor what everyone in this Chamber is concerned about, and we must do it together.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE). – Madam President, firstly, I would like to thank Mr Alvaro for his excellent work as Parliament’s rapporteur on this issue; Mrs Cederschiöld too has done excellent work as co-rapporteur. I sincerely hope your efforts will not be in vain, as the hard work accomplished was circumvented at the last minute by a deal between the Council and the Commission and, shame to say, by the two biggest groups in this House.

The idea to rush this proposal through is not a good one. Yes, we all agree that terrorism should be fought efficiently. Yes, we all agree that electronic communications data can be very useful in tracking terrorists, drug smugglers and human traffickers. Yes, that kind of information should be retained and used against those who are threats to our society. But no, all citizens should not be treated as criminals. No, I am not convinced that the compromise package proposed is a balanced one. And, no, I do not think we have enough information available about how this proposal would affect the privacy of individuals and what kind of threats might be posed to civil liberties.

I am against this proposal. Firstly, because the so-called compromise allows the use of retained data when investigating serious crimes, without defining these serious crimes. Are infringements of intellectual property rights in peer-to-peer networks serious enough crimes for the data retained to be accessed? One could suppose so when reading the statements from the content industry. If we are passing terrorist laws and, at the same time, fulfilling other objectives, we should then at least have a chance to debate and examine them properly and have the right to proper procedures.

Secondly, we are leaving too much decision-making to the Member States. However, in electronic communications the frontiers are artificial. According to which jurisdiction would the seriousness of a crime be assessed when a packet of IP data circulates in different Member states, for example?

Thirdly, I am opposed to this proposal because it leaves completely in the air what kind of costs it brings and who should bear them. Various estimates have been presented, and it is without question that the costs to operators and internet service providers are high. These costs should at least be reimbursed if we were to impose any new data retention requirements.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Libor Rouček (PSE).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, some speakers have attempted to create the impression that this directive might have been drawn up in a police state. That is not a perspective that I share. My opinion is that this directive, which was drawn up jointly by the Council, Parliament and the Commission, will in fact help to safeguard human rights and the rights of citizens, in particular their right to life and their right to a life in safety. I shall therefore be supporting the report in tomorrow’s vote. I feel that there is no contradiction between upholding such values as the citizens’ right to privacy and the protection of personal data, on the one hand, and the fight against terrorism, on the other.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I think it can be said that a debate and a political process have taken place in this Chamber in recent weeks that have not only given Parliament a greater role in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, but have also enhanced the overall image of the three European institutions.

In one of the many speeches, I heard someone say that this directive is an undemocratic instrument; some people even mentioned Stalin and Hitler. This directive is a victory for democracy: it is an important, balanced instrument that serves both the people and, above all, those engaged in the fight against crime who pay the price even on a personal level. I am referring to the investigating authorities, the police forces.

Besides, as Mr Cashman very clearly put it, what is the cost of not deciding, what is the cost of not doing anything? Do we want to carry on with 20 different legal systems, in which each Member State does substantially what it wants, or is it not better instead to come together for the first time with a European approach, a directive, the first step towards harmonisation?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a directive firmly based on the principles of necessity and proportionality. I have heard certain demands, for instance those made by Mr Reul and Mrs Kudrycka, who mentioned an idea that the Polish Parliament is examining. I can certainly say that retaining data for 15 years does not seem to be in keeping with the criteria of proportionality and necessity. Even though each Member State has a duty to demonstrate why its request is proportional and necessary, 15 years frankly seems to me a really extreme case.

I should still like to make two final considerations. I am grateful to all those, particularly Mr Díaz de Mera García Consuegra and Mrs Díez González, who have chosen to remember the victims of crime and have sought to emphasise that the fundamental freedoms of the person must definitely be assured – something with which I fully agree. Nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, if someone uses a mobile phone to set off a bomb, as unfortunately has happened, or to give instructions to a gang of paedophiles, is it not right that the police and the courts, that is to say the legitimate institutions, should have the tools to prevent and to tackle such crimes?

I think it is right that that should happen, and at the same time I think it is right that any abuse of the system should be punished, as we have stated in the directive. The police forces need more tools, as do the courts in our countries, which are democracies, as well as more checks to see whether anyone has abused the system.

To conclude, the European institutions have unfortunately been divided, and still are, on major issues, but it is highly reassuring – and I hope tomorrow’s vote will confirm this – to see that the European institutions will not be divided on the subject of people’s security and the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Instead, all three of them together will have the ability to respond extremely quickly to our fellow citizens’ needs.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Charles Clarke, President-in-Office of the Council. Madam President, firstly, in our capacity as Presidency, we have tried to work with all groups within the European Parliament. I pay respect to Mr Alvaro as rapporteur of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs; I have been to that committee on a number of occasions to have discussions on these points. They are difficult matters, which is why there are differences of opinion, but they are differences of opinion based, I hope, on mutual respect.

Secondly, these proposals are about networks. Networks are the modern criminality, whether they are terrorist, paedophile, drug- or people-trafficking networks. It is not a question of the content of the communication, but what the network is, who is in it. It is very important to understand that.

As far as the point about Poland is concerned, Mr Frattini is completely correct in what he says. There is a clear procedure if Member States want to go beyond the period of time. They can consult the Commission and the Commission will then make a judgement on the proportionality issue, which Mr Frattini has mentioned, also as regards the criteria of the single market and competitiveness within the single market. Those are the procedures and that also is clear.

On the question raised by Mr Crowley from Ireland, it is certainly true that Mr McDowell, the Irish Minister, raised questions about the legal basis. We took opinion from the Council’s legal services, which were very clear, on the basis of the legal advice, that this is the right course to follow.

My final point: people have talked about a police state. This is the opposite of a police state. We are all democracies, both the European Parliament and each country. It is the rule of law that determines how this technique is used, and what we are doing here is proposing the rule of law. Those who talk about Hitler or Stalin or police states are utterly wrong. This proposal goes in exactly the opposite direction. I hope, when the vote takes place tomorrow, we will agree that the democratic European Parliament will stand by the democratic Council of the European Union, will stand by the democratic Commission in that process, to defend our democracy against the criminality which is working to weaken us and our societies at all times.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ewa Klamt (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, I would like to make it plain, for Mrs in 't Veld’s benefit, and in order to nip in the bud any potential legends on the subject, that the rapporteur was in Israel until the evening of the Wednesday prior to the crucial meeting of the Council. It was on Wednesday that I had recourse to the telecommunications facilities and informed Mr Alvaro of our proposals by email. As far as I know, Mrs Roure did likewise. Mrs Kaufmann and Mrs Buitenweg were of the opinion that a deal had been done behind the backs of the smaller groups, but I would like to remind them that the European United Left and the Greens had already rejected the Committee’s compromise, and it is hardly productive to initiate negotiations with groups that are categorically opposed to a proposal; after all, they, as a matter of principle, will negotiate on all other matters with any group other than the Group of the European People’s Party. So let them stop talking about ‘deals’ and accept the democratic majority opinion in this House.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will be held on Wednesday at 11.30 a.m.

 
Last updated: 25 April 2006Legal notice