23rd Sep 2023

MEPs poised to set up Pegasus spyware probe

  • Government officials in both Poland and Hungary initially denied using the spyware, which turns smartphones into surveillance devices against their users - but eventually acknowledged its use (Photo: Blogtrepreneur)
Listen to article

The European Parliament moved closer on Wednesday (9 February) to launching a formal inquiry into smartphone snooping — a move that could lead to further revelations about surveillance in EU countries.

The leaders of the parliament's political groups are expected to decide next week to set up an inquiry committee to look into how Israeli-made Pegasus spyware had been used by EU governments to target journalists, lawyers, and opposition figures.

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

"There is a clear political appetite for it," one parliament official told EUobserver, following the meeting of the group leaders, referring to a formal inquiry.

Such an inquiry could uncover the extent to which other EU governments use Pegasus, which was originally designed to track criminals and terrorists, against critics and political opponents.

Several MEPs tweeted that the decision to set up an inquiry committee has already been made — but the parliament still has to take a formal decision.

That is expected at a group leaders' meeting next week; MEPs also are expected to hold a debate on the Pegasus scandal on Tuesday at their Strasbourg plenary session.

"We need to explain the matter in depth and protect EU citizens from destroying their privacy," Polish liberal MEP Roza Thun tweeted.

The idea for an inquiry committee was pushed by Thun's political family in the parliament, the liberal Renew Europe group.

Pegasus spyware has been used against opposition politicians, journalists and lawyers in at least two EU countries, Poland and Hungary.

Government officials in both countries initially denied using the software, which turns smartphones into surveillance devices against their users - but they eventually acknowledged its use.

The formal launch of a parliamentary inquiry committee requires the signatures of one-fourth of MEPs.

Such an inquiry can last for 12 months and request people to testify. It also can deploy fact-finding missions to member states. The inquiry culminates with a report, with non-binding recommendations, to the European Commission.

"This European 'Watergate' scandal must absolutely be investigated", Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in't Veld said.

"Spying on government critics and manipulating election campaigns are the gravest possible attacks on European democracy and on the integrity of elections. A failure of national parliaments to investigate and to scrutinise their governments would lead to impunity. That is unacceptable," she added.

Hungarian journalist Szabolcs Panyi - who has been a target of surveillance, and who was on the team of reporters that broke the story - has told the parliament that there are other countries using Pegasus in the EU besides Hungary and Poland.

"We haven't established the suspicion that these countries abuse Pegasus on the scale that Hungary and Poland does," he said.

The data protection authority in Hungary has already closed its investigation, saying Hungary's government did not break the law.

MEPs hear testimony from Pegasus spy victims

The renewed calls for action on Pegasus surveillance in Poland and Hungary came after Hungary's data protection authority, headed by an appointee of prime minister Viktor Orbán, said victims were legitimate targets.

EU condemns 'Pegasus' spyware use on journalists

An international investigation over the weekend by 17 media organisations, led by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories, said 180 journalists had been targeted by Israeli spyware. Among them were Hungarian reporters.

Privacy watchdog proposes EU-ban on Pegasus-like spyware

The Brussels-based European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) warns the software could lead to an unprecedented level of intrusiveness into citizens' private lives and shake the foundations of a free-thinking society.


Pegasus: Are we becoming a Europe of spies?

I was spied on using Pegasus while being an MEP in the EU Parliament — this attack on the home of European democracy must have consequences.


Orbán's 'revenge law' is an Orwellian crackdown on education

On Tuesday, the Hungarian parliament passed a troubling piece of legislation known by its critics as the 'revenge law', which aims to punish and intimidate teachers who dare to defy Viktor Orbán's regime. This law is a brutally oppressive tool.

Latest News

  1. Europe's energy strategy: A tale of competing priorities
  2. Why Greek state workers are protesting new labour law
  3. Gloves off, as Polish ruling party fights for power
  4. Here's the headline of every op-ed imploring something to stop
  5. Report: Tax richest 0.5%, raise €213bn for EU coffers
  6. EU aid for Africa risks violating spending rules, Oxfam says
  7. Activists push €40bn fossil subsidies into Dutch-election spotlight
  8. Europe must Trump-proof its Ukraine arms supplies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us