Misc 19/04/2022

Brussels calls on Spain to investigate Catalangate

European Commission considers espionage "unacceptable" and urges all states to combat it

2 min
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders at the plenary session of the European Parliament.

BrusselsSince the first scandal related to the cybersurveillance by some European governments and authorities on their own citizens was uncovered, the European Commission has been alarmed and concerned, but in practice has done very little. From Brussels, the EU executive considers it "unacceptable", but assures that it has no competence to do anything more than to call on governments to investigate the various cases that have come to light. This comes after The New Yorker, following an investigation by Citizen Lab, revealed several European governments including Spain's and Greece's appeared to be involved with mass cyber surveillance. Mass spying on Catalan politicians, activists and journalists has taken centre stage.

Faced with this new case, however, a spokesman for the European Commission has limited himself to reiterating appeals made earlier: "Any attempt by government intelligence services to illegally access citizens' data [and here journalists and politicians are included] is unacceptable. States are responsible for safeguarding national security and for ensuring that their security services fully respect human rights, including freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Each member state has to investigate it and we expect national authorities to look into it to restore confidence."

The issue is that it is these same national authorities that are allegedly the ones that used spyware such as Pegasus to illegally investigate journalists, activists and politicians. But Brussels insists that the powers to investigate these allegations lie with each state. At the European level, for the moment, what has been set up is a parliamentary committee within the European Parliament that intends to investigate all cases related to the use of Pegasus in the European Union. Other governments such as those of Hungary and Poland are also accused of having used it illegally.

The parliamentary committee was constituted just this Tuesday with a first meeting in which the Greens/EFA will propose ERC MEP Diana Riba for one of the four vice-presidencies. Among its members are Spanish MEPs such as the PP's Juan Ignacio Zoido, who was Minister of Home Affairs, or Juan Fernando López Aguilar of the PSOE, a former Minister of Justice. Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, from the parliamentary group of non-attached members, is also a member.

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