What do MEPs say about mass surveillance allegations in EU countries? 



The resolution to be voted by the full House on 12 March also looks at the surveillance activities within the EU, pointing out the "lack of control and effective oversight" by certain EU member states over their intelligence communities and their cooperation and involvement with US surveillance programmes.

The UK, France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland should clarify the allegations of mass surveillance activities and their compatibility with EU laws, including:

  • mass surveillance of cross border telecommunications,
  • untargeted surveillance on cable-bound communications,
  • potential agreements between intelligence services and telecom companies as regards access and exchange of personal data and access to transatlantic cables, and
  • US intelligence personnel and equipment on EU territory without oversight on surveillance operations.

Other EU countries, in particular those participating in the "9-eyes" (UK, Denmark, France and the Netherlands) and "14-eyes" arrangements (those countries plus Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden) are also urged to review their national laws and practices governing the activities of intelligence services, so as to ensure that they are subject to parliamentary and judicial oversight and public scrutiny and that they comply with fundamental rights obligations.

MEPs also question the compatibility of some member states’ "massive economic espionage activities" with the EU internal market and competition law.

UK GCHQ intelligence agency


The resolution mentions the systems of the UK intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), such as the "Tempora" programme. It refers to the allegations of ‘hacking’ or tapping into the Belgian telecom firm Belgacom systems by GCHQ and also recalls that former columnist from the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald, told the inquiry that the NSA and GCHQ had targeted SWIFT networks.

MEPs call on the UK to revise its current legal framework, which is made up of a “complex interaction” between three separate pieces of legislation – the Human Rights Act 1998, the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

MEPs also take note of the detention of Greenwald's partner David Miranda and the seizure of the material in his possession by the UK authorities under the UK Terrorism Act (and also the request made to the Guardian newspaper to destroy or hand over the material). "This constitutes a possible serious interference with the right of freedom of expression and media freedom", they say, adding that "legislation intended to fight terrorism could be misused in such instances".

Call on the Netherlands to be cautious


One of the world’s biggest Internet Exchange Points is located in Amsterdam (AMS-IX). MEPs calls on the Netherlands to refrain from extending the powers of its intelligence services in such a way as to enable untargeted and large-scale surveillance also to be performed on cable-bound communications of innocent citizens. They also ask for caution regarding the presence and operation of US intelligence personnel on Dutch territory.

Refrain from bilateral “anti-spying” deals with the US


The resolution deems bilateral “anti-spying” arrangements concluded or under negotiation between some EU countries (the UK, France and Germany) and the US as “counterproductive and irrelevant, due to the need for a European approach to this problem”. MEPs ask member states for more information on developments on an "EU-wide mutual no-spy arrangement".