EDRI Open Letter to the European Parliament on Amendment 138 in the Telecoms Package
Posted by Dragoslava Greve on October 20, 2009
EDRI Open Letter to the European Parliament on Amendment 138 in the Telecoms Package *
19 October 2009
To the Members of the European Parliament,
European Digital Rights is an association of 29 privacy and civil rights organisations
based in 18 European countries and active across the European Union. As an association
whose focus is on protecting the civil rights of online citizens, we have serious concerns
about the possible abandonment of the core meaning of the so-called “Amendment 138”
in the Telecoms Package. We believe that this would not just create lasting damage for
the rights of European citizens, but it would also durably damage the credibility and
institutional power of the European Parliament.
The purpose of Amendment 138 is to protect the fundamental rights of citizens to
freedom of expression and communication, to privacy and to due process of law. It also
protects the development of democratic culture on the Internet. The fact that the Council
is aware of current and planned activities in Member States that will undermine or do
already undermine these principles should further convince Parliamentarians of the need
to defend the principles in Amendment 138. Even if, and it is far from evident that this is
the case, the Council can argue convincingly that there are certain exceptional
circumstances where communications must be limited for the purposes and urgency
required by the European Convention on Human Rights, such limitations should remain
the exception in a democratic society, while the rights defended in Amendment 138 must
constitute the rule. This must be reflected in the Telecoms Package.
Furthermore, failure to protect EU citizens will not only undermine their rights, but will
be used in less democratic countries to victimise individuals, justified with the excuse
that this is “EU policy”.
The Parliament now has the chance to protect citizens’ rights and fully perform its
institutional function within the European legislative process.
A capitulation faced with the unacceptably inflexible, legally dubious and democratically
deficient approach of the Council would inflict lasting damage on the Parliament.
What trust can voters have in an institution that will overwhelmingly support citizens’
rights before an election only to abandon them immediately afterwards? What credibility
will the Parliament have in future inter-institutional negotiations when it is prepared to
abandon a position it supported twice with such an overwhelming majority? What
authority will be left once the Parliament loses this crucial battle with the Council? Could
there be a worse moment to fail so completely on an issue of such importance, at the
historic moment when the institution is being entrusted with a greatly increased scope of
codecision powers under the Lisbon Treaty?
For the sake of the rule of law, for the sake of European citizens and for the sake of the
only democratically elected European Institution, we urge you to take whatever actions
you can to defend the principles in Amendment 138. In particular, we urge you to support
the principle that, unless exceptional circumstances render this impossible, citizens are
entitled to a prior judgment before any measure is taken to limit their fundamental right
to freedom of communication.
* ISOC-Bulgaria is an EDRI member, and has participated in the drafting of this Open Letter. We, obviously, support it wholeheartedly.