Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Focus

European parliament abandons internet cut-off struggle

As France finally passes its harsh anti-piracy law and Britain readies its own bill to tackle illegal file-sharing, the European Parliament in a major U-turn has dropped its opposition to cutting internet access to scofflaw downloaders.

Representatives of the house have rowed back from insisting on the maintenance of an amendment to a package of telecoms laws that would have ruled out such manoeuvres.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Ahead of elections, internet cut-off was a major issue (Photo: Flickr)

On Thursday (22 October), representatives of the parliament and the member states announced that at the beginning of November, they will hold formal talks along with the European Commission to resolve differences between the sides over the telecoms package.

"Parliament's delegation has agreed a compromise proposal that will serve as a basis for negotiations and towards which the Council and the commission will be able to converge", said French Socialist MEP and one of the main negotiators Catherine Trautmann.

The MEPs insisted that they remained champions of citizens' fundamental rights: "We will do all we can to achieve a good solution, but Council has to understand that parliament will defend without hesitation the freedom of the citizens it represents," said Spanish conservative Alejo Vidal-Quadras.

However, the compromise text, which would be the basis of discussions, no longer requires that only judicial authorities be allowed to cut off internet access.

Ahead of European elections in which the issue of internet freedoms suddenly pushed its way to the centre of public debate, the chamber seemed ready to mount the barricades in its battle to stop EU member states from attempting to introduce legislation which a majority of deputies considered a breach of human rights.

MEPs with strong majorities twice inserted an amendment to the telecoms package that would have forbidden member states from restricting internet access without judicial authorisation and only in exceptional circumstances.

On 6 October, telecoms ministers formally rejected the parliament's key amendment - the now infamous Amendment 138.

On almost all other issues, the two sides are in agreement.

France-based internet freedom pressure group La Quadrature du Net calls the compromise text "useless legalese" that essentially only restates existing rights protections and does nothing to explicitly rule out internet blocking.

"Amendment 138 will instead be replaced by a weak provision that does not carry any new important safeguard for citizen's freedoms," said spokesman for the group, Jeremie Zimmerman.

"This decision was taken consciously by rapporteur Catherine Trautmann, in order not to risk a confrontation with the Council [representing the member states] and to quickly finish with the telecoms package."

The move comes as France's anti-piracy legislation, under which internet access can be cut off, fines imposed and in some cases prison sentences handed down, was finally given the green light by the country's constitutional court.

Britain likewise is expected to table similar legislation in the coming weeks.

Mr Zimmerman said pressure from France and other member states has been fierce.

"Ministers of member states, who want to be able to regulate the net without interference from the judiciary, were rushing to kill amendment 138 and put an end to the negotiations."

The parliament, Council and commission delegates will meet behind closed doors on 4 November. They then have six to eight weeks to reach an overall agreement. The two sides - sitting as the full Council and parliament - then have a further six to eight weeks to approve the final agreement without amendment.

Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms

The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us