European Parliament: Inquiry on Echelon

29.03.2000

The Green Group in the Parliament found sufficient support to demand a parliamentary inquiry on Echelon

The Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament presented today a list of 172 signatures of Members of European Parliament of all political groups, supporting the establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on Echelon.

This means there are enough signatures for an official demand on an inquiry on Echelon, an espionage system operated by the US, the UK and other countries. The existence of Echelon was revealed in the STOA-Reports. According to parliamentary rules, a quarter of the total number of members of parliament (which equals 157 members) is required for a demand on an inquiry.

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The list of signatories is now sent to the president of the European Parliament, Nicole Fontaine. According to the rules, it's now up to the Parliaments Conference of Presidents (an organ consisting of the presidents of all political groups) to make a recommendation for an inquiry, which will then be voted upon in the plenary. Therefore, it is not sure the inquiry will be actually held. A majority of the Parliament has to vote for it.

"Echelon poses a serious threat to democracy, citizens rights and business interests," said Paul Lannoye, co-President of the Green/EFA Group at a press conference in Brussel. "The Greens want to know if the EU Commission and the Council have done enough to protect EU citizens from being spied on in their professional and private lives."

According to Heidi Hautala (Greens), there is enough evidence that Echelon exists and works:

"Two tears ago, Commissionair Bangemann simply denied the existence of Echelon, and his successor Frits Bokkestein is continuing to do so. The EU Commission has to wake up to reality. We call upon the EU Commission and Council to show more transparancy in this question and so help to shed light on the legal grey zone in which telecommunication interception is practised."

Tomorrow, The EU Commission and Council will be making statements on Echelon.

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