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Negotiations on amendments start in Pegasus inquiry committee

The use of spyware inside and outside the EU has gotten out of control – this is something we have clearly established in the last ten months of work in the Pegasus Committee of Inquiry. The committee, for which I am shadow rapporteur, is now entering a crucial phase: after the presentation of the draft final report, all political groups have submitted their amendments (here are the links: 1 – 240, 241 – 510, 511 – 760, 761 – 1020, 1021 – 1281). On this basis, we will negotiate intensively in the upcoming weeks in order to be able to present a result by the end of April.

The draft report is composed of two parts: a 56-page stocktaking and a 22-page catalogue with concrete recommendations for all relevant stakeholders. Our group has submitted a total of 472 amendments to both parts of the report, as we would like to strengthen and improve the (already very good) foundation in some areas.

The stocktaking comprehensively documents the misuse of spyware within the EU. It draws on the work of the Investigative Committee up to now, including hearings, studies, and missions to certain member states and Israel (NSO, the maker of Pegasus, is headquartered there). Highlighted here are five EU states where spyware abuse has been documented: Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Poland and Spain. In addition, the draft shows the opaque business relationships of spyware companies operating in the EU – these companies benefit significantly from the free movement of goods, finances and services in the EU's internal market.

Call for moratorium

The draft text on the concrete recommendations calls for a moratorium on the development, sale, purchase, maintenance and use of spyware: this is particularly important to us as the Greens/EFA group. However, the proposal does not go far enough for us: we additionally call for a ban on particularly intrusive spyware (such as Pegasus), which can be used to manipulate IT devices of targeted individuals for falsifying data and messages.

Reporting obligation and European oversight mechanism

We have also introduced an amendment calling for mandatory reporting and oversight of the use of spyware at national and European level: The respective responsible authorities in the member states should have to report on the use of spyware to a national supervisory body at least annually in anonymized form. This information should also be forwarded to the European Commission in order to make it public and create transparency and comparability. In addition, we recommend the creation of a joint oversight body consisting of representatives of the Commission and MEPs to monitor the use of spyware by actors in the EU. 

The foreign policy dimension comes up short

For me as a Green politician working in foreign policy, the non-European dimension clearly comes up short in the draft report. For example, the text contains hardly any information on the co-responsibility for human rights violations in authoritarian states through the export of spyware by EU companies. Incidentally, we have collected a good overview of the global dimension of the abuse of spyware – with numerous documented individual cases – in an interactive map on the Group's website .There, the extent of the persecution of Human Rights Defenders, journalists, activists, politicians and scientists, but also their relatives, becomes alarmingly clear.

The outcome of the negotiations is expected to be voted on in committee in early May. The resolution will also be adopted in plenary before the report is forwarded to the European Commission. And after that? After that, we have to wait for the Commission to submit a legislative proposal for a directive or regulation on the subject. Based on this, the Parliament, together with the Council, can then submit amendments. Hopefully, the final result will be a new legislation with the central demands of the committee report!

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