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Cyprus involved in the export of surveillance software to other EU member states

Countries other than those accused of surveillance should also be investigated, including Cyprus, according to MEP and member of the European Parliament’s inquiry committee investigating the use of Pegasus software and similar surveillance software (PEGA) Sofia In et Velt.

While there are no complaints about surveillance cases in Cyprus, the country is part of the puzzle in the export of such software to other member states, according to Velt.

Velt told CNA that the investigation into the wider system of private surveillance companies should involve countries other than those accused of surveillance such as Ireland and Luxembourg who relate to the economic activities of such companies, Austria and Italy involved in the production of such software, as well as Bulgaria and Cyprus involved in exporting them.

The need to regulate technologies utilized to monitor citizens, both for their protection and the protection of national security, was among PEGAs items of discussion during Tuesday’s sessions.

While the discussion did not centre around the situation in Greece, according to safe sources cited by CNA, a special session is being advanced to take place in the next week or the week after, in which Greek journalist Thanasis Koukakis and possibly MEP Nikos Androulakis, both subjects of surveillance, will be called to testify.

A delegation of the committee is also scheduled to visit Athens for on-site contacts in relation to the activities of the companies allegedly involved in the surveillance of journalists and politicians.

According to PEGAS’s schedule, the next meeting will focus on the use of surveillance software in Poland, one of the countries where allegations of state surveillance have been launched against.

Other countries include Greece, Spain, and Hungary.

Akel MEP Giorgos Georgiou told CNA that he doubts that the investigation will yield substantial results as he sees efforts being made “for the case to fall on soft land.”

During the two Tuesday hearings, MEPs exchanged views with a representative from Europol, victims of surveillance, privacy experts from NGO’s and academic researchers.

Karin Kanimba, daughter of Rwandan politician Paul Rusesabagina who was imprisoned by the Kagame regime, speaking as a surveillance victim said that “I would feel safe only if there were consequences for the countries that commit such acts.”

Professor Catherine Van De Heyning emphasized among other that the only protection for citizens and victims is the rule of law and the ability of recourse to the courts.

Moreover, she noted that regulation and standardization will force companies offering surveillance services to be transparent as to their offerings. This could also protect governments falling prey to surveillance from technologies they themselves acquired without knowing their full capacities.

Giorgos Georgiou on his part had, pointed out that EU countries practicing surveillance should be considered authoritarian like Rwanda and further wondered what can be done to combat these practices when the EU and member states exhibit reluctance in investigating these allegations in depth.

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