Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Story of Alexander Alvaro

Campaign: International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (American Civil Liberties Union, Focus on the Global South, Friends' Committee on National Legislation, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Statewatch) . More documentation available at Statewatch and Data Retention is No Solution.

Since 1948, governments worldwide have been attempting to bypass accountability in building a global surveillance system to monitor the electronic communications and financial transactions of their citizens. Alexander Alvaro is a Member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament. As the Parliament's rapporteur on a US-EU-G8-driven legislative proposal on data retention throughout the EU, he was sidelined by the leaders of the two bigger parties at a crucial moment in the process and withdrew his name from the report.

To make it quite short: they ripped us off. I mean, that's it. Okay, I must admit: I don't agree 100 percent that we saw all the points which have been mentioned, because some things are a little bit different and it is in the end not sure that you will have every bit of location data, every cell ID which you move in or whatever. But I think we are beyond the stage at a certain point, because there has been an agreement between the PPE and the PSE, which, we all know, have - if they would have all their people in the plenary - 468. We need approximately 370 for some amendments, so technically, and just by arithmetics, I know where I am standing.

But, the point is: they have both agreed on - I mean, Council delivered something which they call "Well, this is our text, this is what we want. And this is what you take or we won't have a deal." By some convincing arguments which I don't understand and I don't know, Mr. Pöttering and Mr. Schulz were very convinced by what Charles Clark said. I wasn't attending that meeting, I wasn't there, I don't know what he offered and what he said. But it must have been very convincing, because now, both two groups are willing to amend the Commission's Directive 100% the way that Council demands it, from the text we have, i.e. the version of 2 December.

And I must admit: I don't understand at all, why. Because, if you have the text, the original Framework Decision which Council once proposed, from the 18th April last year, and you put beside the text they now put as a compromise text: where is the development? Where have they changed? There are certainly some inclusions concerning data protection, data security and whatever, but they are just referring to national laws. And, for Council it is like this to refer to national law. It's nothing like compromise, they just say "Okay, leave it to the Member States, who pay all this stuff." Who checks about data retention? Who does the access? Who does the question like "what about criminal sanctions?" What about administrative sanctions? It is all referred back to the Member States.

The main points on duration - retention periods, on what is to be stored - data types, on who pays it, on whatever... has not changed. It has, in a sence, become worse. Council always said "We want 6 to 24 months of retention period". Now they say it again, but there is a clause, because there is a so-called new article X - who knows what it is - but it is called future measurements. Which means that a Member State, by notification of the Commission and giving a reason that it is important for national security, whatever national purpose, as long as they can justify it. And we know that Commission will never touch the sovereignty of the state, which says "I need it".

You can extend the retention period to whatever you want, literally speaking. And that's why we have press releases by Poland saying "Well, we would like to do 15 years." I mean, they can try, no problem! I don't know where they want to store that data - Poland is big, but not that big. And I don't know how they want to pay it, I don't know how they want to search 15 years of data. I mean, just imagine it: even if it's reduced to a minimum: check 15 years of phone calls! I mean, whatever, but okay, it is Poland; if they want to do it, it's not my problem.

The other thing he said: there's a quite extreme change also concerning ... we had the discussion of the Article 15.1 of the 2002 directive, which was once designed to leave it within the Member State's competence to choose if they want data retention or not. Now, and that was in general my purpose to say: okay, if we are doing a data retention Directive, then it finalizes 15.1. Which means: outside of the scope of the data retention Directive, you cannot retain data. That was in fact the purpose to get out this exemption of 15.1. Now it is like saying - Council says in fact - well, outside of the data retention Directive, you can do whatever you want under 15.1, concerning datatypes and purposes. So I think it is again an extremising or maximising of what generally was the idea. So I do not understand why, in any case, the two big groups are going like what they're doing right now, and saying "okay, we're going to amend the Commission's proposal, the ways the Council wants it, andwe're going to vote en block on it".

That's it. I mean, by that case, I really don't understand it. Maybe I'm a little bit naive, but I don't understand it. And this is where we will have problems, because personally the speaker has said it this way: "Of course I was not absolutely happy with which came out in the committee, but in spite of what was going on - I know your group's position on this - but in spite of what was going on, it was the best possible compromise to achieve, and we got a lot of things in. Even though it was difficult, but we had all the time discussions with all 5 major groups in this house - I consider there to be five."

So, we had the discussions, and we agreed on certain points. Of course, if you don't necessarily have to agree as a group, I understand that you take yourself out, and it's completely right. Because if I could have decided alone, we wouldn't have this tool. But since it's on thetrack, it was my job to see we make it as proportionate as possible, and it's not very easy if you have quite a thorough majority against yourself. But now, immediately after committee decided, immediately after Parliament made a position on this, the two big groups came in and said "Okay, we're going to compromise on this and this and this, and we're going to compromise on that, and then we're going to present it to Council", which was politically, in my point of view, one of the biggest mistakes you could ever make. I mean, it was a beginner's mistake. Saying, like, before I even know what Council wants, I am going to step back from my compromise and give a new compromise.

I mean, it's like in a bazaar: I say 5 euro's, I don't even know if the guy would say 7, but I say 8. Okay? No problem. And that is what I don't understand on that point. But anyway, now we are facing the situation: we are doing our work trying to change majorities, but again to be realistic, you need 370, roundabout, if you would estimate that all 732 of us are in the house. Which means: your group, maybe a lot of people out of my group, maybe the GUE/NGL.

What I want know. Who made the compromise? The people of the LIBE committee of the two groups or were it the presidents of the two groups? This I did'nt understand. Because there were talks between Schulz and Pöttering while both not in the LIBE Committee so I want to know how it works.

Ah, okay. Well, in general, I just suppose, because I was not attending, it was not within the LIBE committee. That was not there. I suppose, because I know it was Schulz and Pöttering.

Was it a proposition in the LIBE committee? As whom they went to the Council? As what?

No, Council. Council approached them as group leaders. Saying "you're the group leader of one big group, and you're the group leader of another big group". And Council also knows how it goes. So, they said "Okay this is what we want", and as I said, I don't know what happened, because I was not attending. But suddenly, both said "okay, we're going to go in that direction" and then they informed the coordinator of the LIBE committee, Mrs. Klamt "Go down that road". And that was sort of, like, 5 or 4 people's agreement, I don't know how.

I just was informed as a rapporteur by e-mail on Wednesday saying "We would like to inform you that we had a compromise on this and this and this." I said "Okay, very nice". But no, it was Schulz and Pöttering. And in fact, I mean, we are losing such a piece of credibility. I don't know why everybody was going "Oh cool, we got codecision procedure ...". It is an Article 95 proposal: it's a Directive. Of course it is codecision! It's nothing you really, like, fight for, you win, or whatever: it is legally the right way to do it. It is nothing what we call a victory.

We would have a victory if we would work on the content. But, I don't know, it's been completely excluded by people's minds to work on content on this topic, I don't know. But in any case, I mean, just calculating: 732 people in the house, they're not all there but anyway, roundabout 370 majority... I know how big my group is and how big your group is, how big the GUE/NGL. Taking out some people who go... roundabout 150 votes, we need. And this is quite difficult. It's not impossible, never. But it is difficult. And it means a lot of work in the next 5 days. But, in any case, I don't understand what happened, why it happened. I just know that if it goes through, on block, it's not my name being on the report. Because I cannot stand up for what is being then decided. I could take the committee's proposal, but I cannot take what Council wants now. So, no big message, because it is politically not really changing the world, but I mean, I would have to justify as a rapporteur and I could not justify that position.

So, once again, I mean: which means, either you, or we, I suppose we, would have to become one of the biggest groups. Then we can change certain things. But it would be naive to think that it would have not gone that way. But at least, one can try. And we will still, until the final vote, try. And whatever happens, we got a 18 months implementation phase, and it's still - you got constitutional courts at your home - and they still can test this in any case. But, as I said, I'm not happy, but well it's about not giving up. You know how it works. Sorry for talking a little bit longer, but thanks for the attention.


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