EU parliament spyware vote politicized, implementation problems loom 2023

A European Parliament special committee (PEGA) investigating Pegasus and similar spying malware recommended that the EU establish strict regulations and punish violators.

While executing EU policies is “challenging,” the final vote was politicized.

The special committee studied Pegasus and Predator malware in Spain, Greece, Poland, Cyprus, and Hungary for 14 months.

EU parliamentarians unanimously supported a report and EU Commission action proposals.

Greek hiccup

The committee’s work has been highly politicized and controversial, with political groups bickering, member states not cooperating, national interests interfering, and centre-right EPP voting against part of the compromise text containing Greece’s recommendations at the last minute.

The EPP voted against Greece-related suggestions in the final report.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of the New Democracy party (EPP) is accused of being involved in the “Greek Watergate” scandal, in which secret services under his personal control bugged opposition politicians, journalists, and businessmen. Athens is holding elections on 21 May.

Although his nephew and office head Grigoris Dimitriadis resigned after the controversy, the Greek premier stated he was ignorant of these activities.

EPP spokeswoman told EURACTIV that the proposals were “socialist propaganda ahead of the Greek elections”.

Socialist MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar claimed the EPP “tried to protect at all costs behaviours on the part of the centre-right Greek government that inevitably have to be reflected in the wording of the final report”.

“No member state was spared. Conclusions regarding France, Germany, Spain Why not draw Greece conclusions? “Because it bothers the EPP,” he continued.

The suggestions urge Athens to guarantee that the judiciary is autonomous and supported to investigate spyware misuse and that the government does not interfere with the top prosecutor and other independent agencies.

In Greece, “there are the two independent authorities, the ADAE and the data protection authorities, and they are doing their job as they are supposed to, but they are facing harassment, intimidation, verbal attacks, obstruction with every step of the way,” Renew MEP and file rapporteur Sophie In’t Veld said during a closed-door briefing on Monday.

The statement also demands for constitutional protections and parliamentary supervision of the Greek intelligence services (EYP) and a reversal of laws that put them directly under the prime minister.

Leftist MEP Stelios Kouloglou criticized Mitsotakis for comparing Greece to Hungary and Poland’s far-right regimes.

Kouloglou called him “the Balkan Viktor Orbán who exposes the country internationally”.

Finally, Greece acknowledged to exporting illicit spyware. The EU prosecutor interfered, according to EURACTIV.

Implementation: next battle

EU parliamentarians were quasi-united and harsh in their suggestions, but they recognize that the EU Commission’s reluctance to enforce present EU law will make implementation difficult.

We will keep drumming because we may vote tonight, but the situation remains. In’t Veld remarked, “We’ll be a pain forever.”

In’t Veld said that “the EU institutions are turning a blind eye” and not enforcing data protection and privacy laws, making it difficult to execute the Parliament’s proposals.

“The whole idea that its member state authorities, which themselves are violating the law [like seen in maladministration by member states during the inquiry], doesn’t fit into the Commission’s mind frame. We can pass any number of laws. “But without enforcement, those laws are worthless paper,” she remarked.

“When EU democracy is at risk, the Commission and Council cannot hide behind the fiction of national compliance anymore […] they have to implement the recommendations of Parliament without delay,” she said.

S&D MEP López Aguilar thinks the Commission will quickly propose new legislation based on the Parliament’s findings, like the whistleblower Directive did following a Parliamentary committee of inquiry on mass monitoring.

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