There is no evidence that Cyprus is a hub for the export of illegal surveillance software because the authorities of the states involved are not cooperating, Pega report rapporteur Sophie in ‘t Veld said on Tuesday.
Answering a question by Cybc correspondent Tasos Christodoulou, she said that there are sufficient indications of illegal exports of malicious software from Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria.
However, she questioned whether the authorities are willing to cooperate in clearing up the scandal since some of them may have been involved in the use or export of illegal surveillance software.
At the same time, she called on the European Commission to assume its responsibilities for full and proper implementation of European Union law, reminding that it is the relevant authority.
“I find it unacceptable hearing the European Commissioner say that ‘we have no powers, we cannot do anything.’ Yes. They can,” she said.
She added that the European Commission has requested clarifications from the authorities of Cyprus, Greece and France but the answer they get is that “everything is fine here. There’s nothing to see.” This is not enough, in ‘t Veld stressed.
The EU official also claimed that there is evidence that with the permission of the Greek authorities, Cyprus exported predator spy software to Sudan.
Asked by the Cyprus News Agency about the possible consequences on Cyprus if it does not follow the recommendations, she said that this is not in the hands of the Parliament, but of the Commission and the Council.
She said that MEPs will continue to put pressure on the Commission, the Council, the Member States, and will also continue to provide support to those, be it the media or independent agencies, who are conducting their own investigations.
It’s a tough but very important battle, she said, because “the alliance of governments and the very dark spyware industry is almost like a mafia business”.
“We see that governments have the power to use spyware on their citizens, but they also have the power to prevent any control,” she said.
“That’s absolute power, and that’s scary and that has no place in a democracy,” he said.
Finally she stressed that if all “checks and balances” are eliminated then there is no more democracy, underlining that she is very worried about democracy in Europe.
Inquiry committee chair Jeroen Lenaers , spoke about the Commission’s 14-month effort, the findings and the recommendations approved yesterday, emphasising that it is expected that the European Commission will respond without delay to the recommendations made.
Lenaers said that in an ideal situation, there would be no abuse of espionage within the European Union and where such abuse did occur, it would be dealt with vigorously by the European Commission and the Council.
“Although we experienced a lack of cooperation from member states, in general, and from the other European institutions, we were fortunate to be able to count on the support of many others,” he said, referring to investigative journalists, academics, technical experts and in civil society.
“We started down this road a year ago, 14 months ago, but let’s not forget that it was the Pegasus project that brought to light the massive abuse of spyware as early as July 2021,” in ‘t Veldt said.
She noted that victims such as journalists, lawyers, activists and even civil servants were deliberately targeted for political reasons by ruling party powers who want to secure their own position of power or who are trying to cover up other crimes such as corruption.
“So it’s not just about the damage done to individuals, it’s also about the damage done to democracy and the rule of law,” she said.
She underlined that if there is no public scrutiny, if there is no dissent, criticism from the opposition, then there is no democracy, noting that the powers that abuse spyware, whether they are in the European Union or outside the European Union, are terribly authoritarian governments or even and spyware-abusing dictatorships.
“It is a tool of power and a tool against democracy,” she stressed.
The final text of the report is expected to be put to a vote in the plenary session of Parliament starting on June 12.
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