Wednesday

23rd Jan 2019

Allegations of secret Colombian plan to undermine EU

A group of MEPs is calling for action as further details of an alleged covert operation conducted by the Colombian intelligence agency (DAS) continue to emerge, with one of its reported aims being to undermine the authority of the European Parliament.

Recently released documents that were confiscated from the DAS by the Colombian Attorney General's office highlight the nature of "Operation Europe."

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

  • The alleged action in Europe includes phone tapping and the interception of emails (Photo: Flickr.com)

Its objective was to "neutralise the influence of the European judicial system, the European Parliament's human rights sub-committee, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights," reads one text seen by this website.

Following lines suggest the process of discrediting these institutions should be carried out by waging a "legal war."

News of the Colombian agency's activities targeting national and international human rights defenders, NGOs and democratic organisations, of which 'Operation Europe' was only one part, first broke in the Colombian media in early 2009.

As the scandal grew, former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe finally moved to stem the criticism by introducing legislation late last year to overhaul the controversial agency, although it has yet to be approved by the country's legislature.

But a group of MEPs, primarily from the European Parliament's Green group, are not satisfied, fearing that the reported campaign of close surveillance and threat-making against Bogota's critics may simply continue under a different guise.

Their concerns are backed up by the Colombian Commission of Jurists, among others, a group of legal activists that says the law does not "establish adequate, effective and independent oversight of intelligence activities."

Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek is one of those to have put questions to the European Commission and Council of Ministers, but said the answers she received were "not satisfactory."

In responding to the queries last month, the commission said it was "well aware of the reports relating to alleged illegal spying by the DAS" and has raised the matter with the Colombian authorities on several occasions.

The EU executive body added that it has faith in the current investigation being carried out by the Colombian Prosecutor General's Office and the Attorney General's Office and has been informed of the draft law to liquidate the DAS and set up a new agency.

Others want more, however.

"There should be a full police and judicial investigation of the alleged crimes," said centre-left MEP Richard Howitt. "All of us at member-state level and within the European institutions should take full responsibility for making sure such investigations are conducted."

Hopes for the Belgian Presidency

Unhappy with the current level of action, Ms Lunacek says she has greater hopes for the next six months, with Spain set to hand over the reins of the EU's rotating presidency on 1 July.

"The Spanish government is very in favour of the free trade agreement with Colombia [initialed in May], and they don't want anything to jeopardise that," the Austrian deputy told EUobserver. "But then the Belgians will take over the presidency and they have citizens that have been proven to have suffered phone tapping by the DAS."

One of those Belgian citizens who claims to have been a victim of DAS activities is Paul-Emile Dupret, a political advisor to the European Parliament's left-wing United European Left (GUE) group.

"My name is mentioned on the DAS file several times," he says, believing it to be partially the result of his involvement in the organisation of an anti-Uribe protest in 2004 when the ex-President visited the European Parliament.

Several months after the protest, Mr Dupret was arrested upon landing in the United States. "I was interrogated when I arrived, put in prison for 24 hours, asked dozens of questions about by views on Colombia," he says. "Since then I have been prevented from returning to the US. They now consider me a terrorist."

The close ties between Washington and Bogota are well known.

The Belgian citizen is currently working with a group of other victims and a team of lawyers, and plans to present their collective case against the Colombian agency in the Belgian courts this July, the first European citizens to do so.

Certain European NGOs also claim to have been the target of a concerted campaign to discredit their activities and tarnish their reputations. Amongst them is the Belgian faith-based NGO Broederlijk Delen, whose representative Patricia Verbauwhede attended a press conference in parliament this week.

"The EU needs to make a statement on the DAS," she said. "We request an investigation of the DAS on European soil and we feel the EU should not conclude its free trade agreement with Colombia."

So far the sought-after strong statements and investigations have not been forthcoming.

Germany led way on EU rights protection

Germany led the way on protection of human rights this year, but Hungary, Italy, and Poland "undermined the EU's moral standing" on the world stage, a leading NGO said.

EU court set to side with accused Latvian banker

Latvia was wrong to have suspended its central bank chief from his job over bribery allegations, an EU jurist has said, as Europe struggles to clamp down on financial crime.

News in Brief

  1. EU hits Mastercard with €570m fine
  2. Romanian minister prepares to cancel corruption cases
  3. Sefcovic: no gas supply problems this winter
  4. Report: Commission warning on passport-sale schemes
  5. France summons Italian ambassador over colonial remark
  6. May U-turn on fee for EU nationals in UK
  7. French data watchdog gives Google €50m fine
  8. EU hits Russians with sanctions over Salisbury attack

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. France and Germany hope to revive EU with Aachen treaty
  2. May pushes defeated Brexit deal, offers no Plan B
  3. European Parliament targets 'fake' political groups
  4. What is fate of non-euro EU states after Brexit?
  5. Turkish NBA star takes on Erdogan
  6. 'Meme ban' still on table in EU copyright bill, says MEP
  7. Brexit power grab by MPs hangs over May's 'Plan B'
  8. Polish mayor's funeral marred by Tusk TV dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us