By Bogdan

In the light of the NSA spying scandal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel
has announced plans to set up a European communications network meant to
curb the US and GCHQ mass surveillance.

“We will speak to France about this and about all things regarding what
kind of European providers we have who can offer security for our
citizens: So [that] we don’t even have to go with our emails and other
information over the Atlantic, but that we can set up safe communication
networks within Europe,” said Merkel on her weekly podcast, on 16
February 2014.

The idea is to create a new communication network covering the 26
countries in the Schengen zone, an EU passport-free travel area which
will exclude the UK, by using European-made hardware and software to
avoid US systems.

In January 2014, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee
issued a report suggesting that US surveillance activities were not
really about fighting terrorism, but rather tools for “political and
economic espionage.” The non-binding report recommended the creation of
a European data storage network to help protect EU citizens’ data, and
called for “comprehensive assessment of the US privacy framework
covering commercial, law enforcement and intelligence activities” with a
greater scrutiny of the data privacy practices of companies such as
Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. However, as the report has also
pointed out, France, Germany, and Sweden have carried out mass
surveillance programs as well.

Merkel’s statement comes after her failure to have obtained from the US
a “no-spy” pact for Germany on the model of its “Five Eyes” alliance
with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. Some German politicians
are also making pressure to suspend the negotiations on an EU-US free
trade agreement.

Merkel also reminded that the EU is currently discussing over a new data
protection law which should be finalised by the end of the year and that
the negotiations are not easy as “some countries have less data
protection than Germany and we don’t want our data protection to be
watered down. On the other hand, [US firms] Google or Facebook, of
course settle where the level of data protection is lowest and we can’t
welcome that in the long run in Europe.”

We can only just say this is not a revival of the old idea of the
“Virtual Schengen Border” or “Great Firewall of Europe” from 2011 that
aimed “to propose concrete measures towards creating a single secure
European cyberspace.”

MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht has also seen Merkel’s proposal as a good sign,
but warned about the danger of building national borders within Internet:
“I think it’s a good sign that we see movement towards a European
initiative to better protect our data and the information infrastructure
in Europe. Yes, we need that. But on the other hand, it’s also clear
that we cannot just build borders which would give us some sort of a
German or a Schengen zone internet. Instead, we need to have a legal
framework which secures our fundamental rights in the European market.
We need to implement the European data protection reform.” explained
Albrecht in an interview for Deutsche Welle.

Germany and France to hold talks on protecting EU data from NSA (17.02.2014)
http://euobserver.com/justice/123158

Surveillance revelations: Angela Merkel proposes European network to
beat NSA and GCHQ spying (24.02.2014)
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/angela-merkel-proposes-european-network-to-beat-nsa-spying-9132388.html

Angela Merkel: Let US spies keep their internet. The EU will build its
own (17.02.2014)
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/02/17/angela_merkel_eu_internet_nsa_us/

EDRi-gram: European Parliament’s draft report condemns US & UK
intelligence services’ mass surveillance (15.01.2014)
http://edri.org/european-parliaments-draft-report-condemns-us-uk-intelligence-services-mass-surveillance/

Anonymous means NO identifying element left behind – EU handbook
(4.02.2014)
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/02/04/new_data_protection_handbook_outlines_alternative_test_for_determining_anonymisation/

EDRi-gram: The “Virtual Schengen Border” or “Great Firewall of Europe”
(04.05.2011)
http://edri.org/edrigramnumber9-9virtual-schengen-border/

‘I expect Merkel’s actions to follow her words’ (17.02.2014)
http://www.dw.de/i-expect-merkels-actions-to-follow-her-words/a-17438783