On 1 July, Spain holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the fifth time. In his welcome address, the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, announced: “Europe must become an area of certainties, in which material welfare, freedom and democracy pave the way for the future of all people.” Previously, Sweden had presided over the Council of the EU for six months. Under the Swedish Presidency, the so-called “Going Dark” program was launched, which aims to reintroduce indiscriminate communications data retention while limiting citizens’ digital freedoms and rights for confidential and anonymous communications on the internet. Similarly, under the Swedish Presidency, the Council pushed ahead with plans for EU-wide chat control, despite legal opinions showing that the plans are incompatible with EU law.
Patrick Breyer MEP (German Pirate Party / Greens/EFA) and digital freedom fighter, comments:
“It is an positive and important signal that the Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, is emphasizing freedom and democracy at the start of the Council Presidency. The Swedish Presidency had taken a confrontational course against the fundamental digital rights and freedoms of citizens in the EU, which urgently needs to be corrected.
A first necessary step would be to stop the non-transparent and factually misguided “Going Dark” expert group, whose mandate is based on the disproven assumption that law enforcement agencies cannot effectively fight crime without mass surveillance or further interference with citizens’ fundamental rights. The aims of this program contradict the European values of freedom and democracy.
A second necessary step would be to stop authoritarian chat control. The chat control proposal has been universally rejected by multiple actors, including a strong campaign that was launched in Spain against the proposal.
Europe does not need more surveillance against all, but real solutions such as long-term, targeted and well-equipped investigative work, a strong civil society especially in the areas of child and youth protection, and authorities and public institutions better acquainted with the concrete problems in this area. I hope that President Pedro Sánchez’s words will be followed by actions that strengthen freedom and democracy digitally as well.”