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MEPs demand privacy safeguards on cross-border policing

Slate ministers' 'lowest common denominator deal'

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MEPs have voted to insert data protection provisions into a proposed framework on police and judicial cooperation, meaning the European Commission will be required to pay as much lip service to the proposals as it can be bothered to.

The provisions included a stipulation that authorities should only have access to data held by “private operators” on a case-by-case basis, under judicial control.

The European Parliament was voting on whether to adopt a third report on the proposals. The Parliament's own statement on the vote said it would “beef up the data protection provisions” of the proposal.

The MEPs felt the text had been weakened by a 2007 “political agreement in the Council [of Ministers]”, which they described as being “a lowest common denominator deal”. These included the scaling back of the deal to only cover exchanges of data between states, and not within states.

MEPs are demanding that the text should apply to data processed at national level and that “particular data should be paid to the purposes to which personal data may be utilised”.

They also want article 7 strengthened, to prohibit processing of data covering the likes of race or ethnic origin, political opinions and religious or philosophical beliefs. Which we can only hope will leave existentialists and Young Hegelians free from state persecution.

On a more bureaucratic level, the MEPs have called for a working party “on the protection of people with regard to the processing of personal data”. In an impressive show of activity, the MEPs also produced a report in which they said the battle against terrorism should not constrain freedom of expression. The report was on Commission proposals for three new terror offences: public incitement to commit terrorist offences, recruitment for terrorism, and terrorist training.

MEPs demanded clearer definitions and proposed safeguards for fundamental freedoms, and stressed that private communications should be respected.

Which amounts to a busy day’s work for MEPs just back from their summer breaks. Will this valiant defence of privacy sway either ministers or commissioners? We’re sure it will be at least as effective as any other grandstanding effort by Strasbourg. ®

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