On 9 January 2014, the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee – the committee on civil liberties – will discuss and decide on whether or not it will call upon Edward Snowden for a hearing in the committee. Edward Snowden is the whistleblower who leaked secrets from the NSA, a US intelligence agency. Currently, Mr. Snowden has taken refuge in Russia.
The timing of the debate is interesting. First of all, the EU is currently busy formulating a regulation on data protection – the Data Protection Regulation or DPR. Mr. Snowden’s revelations caused the DPR file to be filled with controversy and got special attention in the European political arena. Secondly, it is interesting to anticipate the outcome of the debate as surely, it will impact EU-US relations – who are currently negotiating a comprehensive trade and investment deal: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP. Transatlantic relations have already suffered a blow following the revelations by Mr. Snowden, as it turned out that EU policy makers and heads of state and government where being tracked by the NSA.
It is not clear what way the debate will go and what the outcome will be as the parties in the European Parliament are divided over the initiative. The European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) is opposed to a hearing, while the European People’s Party (EPP) deems the hearing to be too late as the damage has been done already. “We are not opposed to the idea of approaching him, but we have doubts about the sense of this initiative and the timing” Axel Voss, a EPP member, commented.
Next to this decision, the LIBE committee will also debate on a draft report by Moraes, a socialist MEP. In this report he will argue that the TTIP should not be approved if it means data of European citizens will be at risk of being transferred to US authorities. This opinion is shared by Commissioner Reding. Moreover, Moras also urges the European Commission to suspend two agreements with the United States – the Safe Harbour Agreement and the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme – on the grounds that it jeopardises data of EU citizens.