Today, the Socialists and Democrats are set to vote in favour of the final report of the inquiry committee on Pegasus and similar spyware (PEGA), calling for the EU regulation that stops the abuse of spyware by member states. They urge the EPP to do the same, and vote in favour of the part regarding Greece and the recommendations addressed to Mitsotakis’ government.
The final PEGA report reflects 14 months of work, during which MEPs held dozens of hearings with experts, judges, journalists, victims and others, and undertook many fact-finding missions. The picture is very grim and shocking in some member states. Notably, in Poland and Hungary, where governments spying on political opponents is an element of the broader demolition of the rule of law.
However, the situation is extremely serious in Greece too. The draft report concludes that although in Greece the abuse of spyware does not seem to be part of an integral authoritarian strategy, as for example in Poland, it is still used as a tool for political and financial gains. This erodes democracy and the rule of law, and gives ample room for corruption. The draft recommendations call for clear rules for limiting the use of national security as grounds for surveillance, ensuring proper judicial oversight, and guaranteeing a healthy, pluralist media environment. The Greek authorities must also repeal all export licences that are not in line with the Dual-Use Regulation and invite Europol to investigate.
Hannes Heide, S&D MEP and spokesperson in the PEGA committee said:
“The spying on and intimidation of politicians, journalists, lawyers and civil society is unacceptable. That is why, in our report, we call for a new EU regulation. We must shield European citizens from the abusive use of spyware and make sure that such technologies are only used as a last resort in the most serious crimes, with very strict safeguards.
“As S&Ds, we also secured that the report calls for a clear definition of national security. Now, all too often, member states invocate national security as a pretext to justify the deployment and use of spyware. This should be the exception rather than the rule.
“We hear that the conservatives want to vote against our recommendations on Greece. This would be extremely worrying. We urge the EPP to support our call on Greece to improve their situation. This report must also be taken seriously by Mitsotakis’ government, which has so far refused to duly investigate and clear up the scandal. He must finally end the secrecy, stop attacking critical journalists and independent authorities and stop following the dangerous autocratic path of Poland and Hungary!”