The Commissioner of Fundamental Rights Receives Signatures Against Surveillance

The Commissioner of Fundamental Rights Receives Signatures Against Surveillance

Several thousand signatures collected at after recent privacy scandals were handed over last Thursday. The commissioner of fundamental rights was first hesitant to receive the collected signatures but after some convincing, her assistants accepted them for her. 

The signatures were a “call upon the European Commission to immediately initiate treaty violation proceedings Pursuant to Article 258 TFEU due to violations of article 16 TFEU (right to the protection of personal data) against the United Kingdom”.

It was a nice sunny day in Brussels – a bit too nice for this time of year in Brussels. At around 11:00 in the morning, some people started to gather on the Robert Schuman square in the heart of the European Neighbourhood in Brussels. Not the traditional unionists, farmers, fishermen or others who might have problems with the European Commission. This was a bunch a people who were not that easy to label. One wore a suit, one a long jacket and a modest cowboy hat, some wore hoodies.

These people were Pirates, they came from all over and had left their homes this morning for one reason. They fight for a fair Internet, where nobody is spied upon. An Internet where your communication can be private. This seems like an obvious and reasonable expectation – no one would expect their letters to be opened by the mailman. This fundamental right is, however, not so obvious online.

These rights are in jeopardy; not only does the United States spy on European citizens without any due process, but one of the European Union’s own member states also spies on European citizens. The United Kingdom is part of the European Union and needs to respect its rules, according to the critics. Recent revelations, however, have made it clear that the UK is also spying on its European allies. One of the revelations which upset many people was discovering that the UK was behind the hacking of the national Belgian telecom operator Belgacom.

Several thousand signatures were gathered to protest the spying the UK is doing on European citizens. After initial speeches from Pirate Member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter and lead organiser Nicolaus Kern, the protest moved from the Robert Schuman square to the building of the European Commission. The goal was to hand over the signatures to Viviane Reding of the European Commission – the commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship.

Handing over the signatures to Mrs Reding, however, proved to be more than trivial. Belgian police seemed surprised when Miss Andersdotter introduced herself as a member of European Parliament. Mrs Reding, commissioner of fundamental rights, would at first not receive signatures protesting the largest breach of personal privacy in the history of humanity. It took nearly 45 minutes of negotiating with security staff before some of Mrs Reding’s assistants came down to receive the signatures. The mission of the day had been accomplished, but the fight was far from over.

Featured image CC BY Sébastien Bertrand.