Wednesday

14th Apr 2021

MEPs say No to Snowden asylum in Europe

  • Protesters in Berlin calling for Chancellor Angela Merkel to offer Snowden safety in Germany (Photo: linksfraktion)

A European Parliament committee on Wednesday (12 February) voted against calling for asylum protection for former US intelligence agency contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden leaked top secret documents last summer to the media exposing the scale of US and British global surveillance. He is in Russia to avoid prosecution from American authorities.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The vote was part of a larger, non-binding, resolution backed by the MEPs in the civil liberties committee. The resolution condemns the blanket collection of personal data on the scale he disclosed.

A short paragraph, buried among the hundreds of amendments in the committee's National Security Agency (NSA) inquiry report, had requested that EU member states drop criminal charges against him, if any, and “offer him protection from prosecution, extradition or rendition.” But it did not make the final cut.

German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, one of the drafters behind the deleted clause, told this website that Snowden needs protection on EU territory and not in Russia.

“The EU should have more backbone,” he said.

US lobbying is said to have intensified in the run-up to the vote by MEPs.

The camp opposed to Albrecht’s proposal, aside from conservative and centre-right MEPs, also included some from the centre-left S&D group.

Albrecht in a tweet immediately following the vote said: “It was clear that Europe's Conservatives do not want Snowden, but it's just nasty that the Social-Democrats are in on this, too.”

British centre-left Claude Moraes, who steered the parliament’s three-month NSA inquiry, told reporters in Brussels that it is up to member states, not EU institutions, to grant or withold consular protection.

Instead, MEPs backed a general provision on international protection for whistleblowers.

“What we ended up with I think was a realistic and sensible enhancement for international whistleblowers,” Moraes said.

He described Snowden’s contribution as “a lasting legacy” for international protection.

Not everyone was happy with Moraes’ final text, despite its asylum deletion.

British conservative Timothy Kirkhope voted against it en bloc. He said the committee failed to carry out a serious probe and that MEPs have no business talking about national security issues.

“The end result is the most biased and highly prejudiced report I've seen from the parliament,” he said in a statement.

In other areas, the resolution says the EU parliament should only consent to an EU-US free trade agrrement (TTIP), so long as the final text does not intrude on matters of data protection.

It noted that the existing EU-US terrorist financial tracking programme (TFTP) should be suspended until the Americans provide more detail into allegations they hacked the international wire transfer system, Swift.

The MEPs also asked the European Commission to scrap the EU-US “Safe Harbour” deal, which claims to ensure that US-linked firms follow EU data protection laws when processing the personal data of EU citizens.

The deal is said to contain loopholes which let hundreds of US companies make pretend they do no wrong.

The resolution urges the US to propose a new framework for transfers of personal data which genuinely meets EU data protection requirements.

For their part, the Americans say scrapping the agreement would only serve to interrupt data flows and undermine existing compliance regimes, which currently cover some 3,000 Safe Harbour firms.

A member of US President Barack Obama’s NSA review team, Peter Swire, described the agreement to reporters in Brussels in January as a way to create enforceable and transparent safeguards.

“I’ve been impressed with Safe Harbour,” he said.

The Moraes resolution will be voted on in plenary in March.

The article incorrectly described centre-left Claude Moraes as a Liberal MEP. The article was corrected at 7.50 on 13 February.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

News in Brief

  1. EU states make progress on Covid-19 'travel certificates'
  2. Michel pledges to protect von der Leyen's 'dignity' in future
  3. Libya frees UN-sanctioned human trafficker
  4. European court: jailed Turkish writer's rights violated
  5. EU set to miss 1m electric charging points by 2025 target
  6. Lavrov expects Iran nuclear deal to be saved
  7. France suspends flights from Brazil due to Covid variant
  8. Johnson & Johnson delays roll-out of vaccine in EU

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. Nato and US urge Russia to back off on Ukraine
  2. Future EU platform seeks to 'stay clean' of hate speech
  3. Denmark threatens Syria deportations amid EU concerns
  4. MEPs raise concerns on vaccine 'travel certificates'
  5. Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?
  6. Muslims, Ramadan, and myths facing 'European civilisation'
  7. Europe & Africa - rebuilding the future
  8. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us