Support La Quadrature du Net!

Amendment 138: The Parliament betrayed by its negotiators

Brussels, October 14th, 2009 - Negotiations on the Telecoms Package took a worrying turn for citizens rights and freedoms. The European Parliament Delegation was betrayed by its negotiators, led by Catherine Trautmann (S&D) and Alejo Vidal-Quadras (EPP). In total contradiction with the mandate given by their colleagues representing the Parliament, the negotiators unilaterally accepted to work on a proposal by the Council of the EU that negates citizens' rights1. This dangerous proposition is set to replace "amendment 138", voted twice by 88% of the Parliament.

On Wednesday morning, a clear mandate was given to the negotiation team by the Parliament delegation. A dubious legal analysis was produced by the administrative services of the Parliament a few hours before, to justify to abandon the original amendment 138 safeguarding citizens rights. Thanks to an impressive mobilization of citizens across Europe, MEPs were informed about the importance of preserving user rights at the level set in amendment 138. Several MEPs therefore strongly opposed the analysis of the administrative services and the delegation told the negotiators to disregard it in the upcoming trilogue meeting. Previously, the delegation had already decided that the negotiation should proceed by considering all 3 texts : amendment 138, the second reading compromise of Council and the new proposal.

Nonetheless, a few hours later during a trialogue with representatives from the Council and the Commission, the negotiators violated their mandate by agreeing that the fake “compromise” presented last week will be the basis of further negotiations. By doing so, they gave up on the idea that Internet access could only be restricted by a “prior ruling by the judicial authority”, ignoring the core principle of a provision adopted twice by a 88% majority of the European Parliament.

“This turn-around is worryingly undermining the Parliament's powers. It reveals a profound and lack of transparency and democratic credibility of the European institutions. The negotiators led by Catherine Trautmann decided to ignore the mandate they received from the Parliament delegation and to accept a negotiation basis that reduced citizens freedoms in comparison to the existing levels provided by the European Convention for Human Rights.”, analyzes Philippe Aigrain, co-founder of citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

The new proposal could authorize Member States to implement exceptions to the right to a due process in national Internet-related legislation. Thereby, the proposal amounts to legitimizing an Orwellian surveillance of the Net. Even in the Parliament's legal services opinion2, which seems custom-crafted to benefit the Council during the negotiation, nothing justifies to accept this text as a new basis. The original amendment 138 could if necessary be modified to fit the European Court of Justice's case law.

“When the Parliament adopted amendment 138 on two occasions, it boldly stated that a free access to the Internet is an integral part of fundamental freedoms, and cannot be restricted without a judge's prior decision. Mrs Trautmann and Mr Vidal-Quadras just helped the Council of the EU to restrict citizens' freedoms at their will. This outrageous maneuver could open the door to 'three strikes' policies, discrimination of content and arbitrary filtering of the Net all over Europe.”, concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson for La Quadrature.

Support La Quadrature du Net!