Our internships at EDRi: We made digital rights matter
During the last couple of months, as EDRi’s interns, through advocacy, campaigning and reporting, we were given a unique opportunity to challenge threats to fundamental rights posed in the context of net neutrality, privacy, personal data and copyright. It was a fruitful and rewarding experience that allowed us to put our theoretical skills into practice while promoting human values of freedom and dignity in the online world.
Here is a short summary of our wonderful journey at EDRi:
During my internship, I had the opportunity to work closely on three currently “hot issues”: data protection, copyright and Passenger Name Record (PNR). Since my arrival at EDRi, I was following the activities concerning these subjects and gained a lot of insight by participating in meetings, conferences and events, reading and analysing documents, as well as monitoring the work progress of three main EU institutions: the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.
Thanks to the fact that I was following the Data protection reform developments, I have learnt what is behind the mystery known as “trialogue” and how it functions. The European Parliament’s early steps in reforming and modernising copyright was a great chance to see how the work of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) evolves and how a document can significantly change from the first draft to the final vote in plenary.
Some of the moments I enjoyed the most were visiting the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council for the first time, listening to different perspectives and interesting debates at the events I attended, contacting and meeting Permanent Representations of the EU Member States, analysing the Data retention legislation in Member States, and learning about encryption and basic tools which can protect my privacy online.
All in all, my time at EDRi has helped me enrich my understanding of the European institutions and their work significantly. Participating in the whole process was extremely beneficial to see and understand how the legislation is made at the EU level and how civil society can influence and be part of this process. I have also realised that advocating for citizens’ rights can sometimes be overwhelming and seem pointless, like in the case of the recently adopted EU PNR proposal. However, analysing Marietje Schaake’s Opinion on human rights in third countries, where the suggestions from EDRi were adopted by the Parliament, assured me that organisations like EDRi definitely play an important role in changing the future into a better one.
During my experience at EDRi, I mainly worked on the Telecom Single Market (TSM) package and on trade agreements. To be honest, I didn’t expect trade agreements to be that relevant to digital rights. Indeed, it was very challenging and interesting to deal with trade law and try to understand how a new generation of free trade agreements could affect fundamental rights such as privacy and data protection, which seemed to be completely unrelated to trade issues at first sight.
During these last months, I had the opportunity to follow the legislative procedure of the European Parliament’s own-initiative report on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). I participated in a whole range of advocacy activities, like contacting MEPs offices to arrange meetings and participating in these meetings, assisting in the analysis of amendments, contacting Committee secretariats to get information on the legislative procedure, preparing documents for internal use and help drafting documents and analyses. In this context, it was particularly challenging and gratifying to take part in writing the “TTIP and Digital Rights” booklet (pdf).
Along with the internal work of the association, the experience at EDRi also gave me the opportunity to participate in several external meetings. Particularly as regards TTIP, I took part in events organised by stakeholders and think tanks, civil society meetings and events organised by the European Commission.
Concerning the Telecoms Single Market (TSM) which is crucial for a potential legal safeguard of net neutrality, my internship gave me the opportunity to understand how important it is to have early contacts with MEPs and keep them informed with position papers and analyses on your positions. Following the TSM trialogue was fundamental to understand how the European institutions work in practice. Only knowing the ordinary legislative procedure can be useless in Brussels because informal meetings can deeply affect how policies are made. Besides the ups and downs of the trialogue negotiations, it was very thrilling and instructive to be involved in the net neutrality “fight”. On some days, this file taught me how institutions can be obscure, producing text that makes it difficult to orientate yourself in the details of legislation. On other days, it was great to see the results of our work, and to see how civil society associations like EDRi can make a difference at EU level.
Unfortunately, our joyful ride of protecting digital freedoms at EDRi has come to its last stop. It is time to take our suitcases, fully packed with new skills and knowledge, as well as our bursting confidence and even stronger determination to advocate for digital rights, and head off to a new destination where we can put into practice all the knowledge we gained here.
Last, but certainly not least, we want to thank the EDRi Brussels team for being our amazing guides on this journey, supporting us and making us smile even on a grey, cloudy Brussels day.
Off to some new and exciting adventures!
(Contribution by Morana Perušić and Aldo Sghirinzetti, EDRi interns)