– RIGHT TO LIVE… AND TO DIE
Euthanasia cases in the Netherlands rise by 13% in a year
The Guardian: “The number of assisted suicides in the Netherlands rose by 13% in 2012, the sixth consecutive year of increases, according to the commission that vets voluntary euthanasia in the country.
Doctor-administered euthanasia for terminally ill people facing unbearable suffering was legalised in the Netherlands in 2002. For several years, the reported number of cases declined, but it has risen steadily since 2006. In 2012, a record 4,188 cases were recorded, about 3% of all deaths in the Netherlands, against 1,923 in 2006. Most cases are due to cancer…”
– RIGHT TO PRIVACY
Countries Should Protect Privacy in Digital Age
Human Rights Watch: “Governments around the world should aggressively protect online privacy through stronger laws and policies as pervasive electronic surveillance increases. There is an urgent need to overhaul national surveillance practices to protect everyone’s privacy, or risk severely limiting the potential of the Internet.
Global growth in digital communications, coupled with increased government computing powers, have fueled expansive, new surveillance practices. Justifying the use of these tactics under outdated legal frameworks has permitted overbroad and highly invasive intrusions on the right to privacy. To guide countries in modernizing privacy protections, Human Rights Watch has endorsed a set of International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, released on September 20, 2013, by a broad group of civil society organizations in Geneva.
“The shocking revelations of mass monitoring by the US and UK show how privacy protections have not kept pace with technology,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “As our lives become more digitized, unchecked surveillance can corrode everyone’s rights and the rule of law.”
The International Principles provide immediate guidance to governments and make recommendations to ensure communications surveillance practices are lawful, necessary, proportionate, and subject to adequate safeguards against abuse. The principles, endorsed by over 250 nongovernmental groups, emerged from a year-long consultative process among experts in communications surveillance law, policy, and technology.
Governments should commit to reviewing their national surveillance practices and ensure that they are consistent with these principles, as well as recommendations made by the special rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said.
In her opening statement at the current session of the Human Rights Council on September 9, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern over the broad scope of surveillance programs, including in the US and UK. The high commissioner urged all countries to ensure that they have adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy and other human rights, even “while national security concerns may justify the exceptional and narrowly tailored use of surveillance.”…”
– RIGHT TO NON DISCRIMINATION
Swedish police confirm illegal Roma database
Euractiv: “Swedish police have confirmed that they have kept an illegal registry of more than 4,000 Roma people living in Sweden.
The newspaper Dagens Nyheter, which broke the news, says Swedish police hold 4,029 names of Roma people living across the country.
According to the newspaper, the database is a family tree with information about social security numbers and addresses and arrows which show the family bonds between those registered.
“It makes me feel uncomfortable and frightened. Does it have to be the way it was in Germany when the aim was to exterminate Romas and Jews?” Erland Kaldaras, spokesperson for the Roma Youth Association, was quoted as saying by the SVT television station.
Many of the people in the database have not committed crime and thousands of them are children.
“It becomes even more scary when you see that this is also about small children who can’t even walk or talk,” Kaldaras said, adding that the next step would be to determine how far up within the police, officers knew about the database.
According to the police, the database was set up in 2009 because of a special investigation on criminal activity and was used in southern Sweden during 2011. Since then, the police have added people with “links to criminals” who were suspected of carrying out illegal activities.
Ethnic registration is illegal in Sweden and the registry also violates the European convention on Human rights, which provides the right to respect for private and family life…”
EU condemns racist attacks on Italian minister
Euobserver: “Ministers from 17 EU member states on Monday (23 September) gathered in Rome to condemn the racism directed towards Italy’s integration minister Cecile Kyenge.
The ministers called for a new pact to stamp out racism across Europe, which they see as on the rise.
“What has happened to the Italian minister is unacceptable but we’re talking about a widespread phenomenon,” Belgium’s deputy prime minster, Joelle Milquet, told reporters in Rome.
They signed a “Declaration of Rome,” which calls upon the EU to put together a plan for 2014-2020 on diversity and the fight against racism.
“Intolerance and discrimination, in whatever form, is reprehensible. We cannot ignore it and we cannot do nothing about it,” states the declaration.
The ministers want the European Commission to draft a report on racism before the European Parliament elections next May.
It notes that all member states should finalise the transposition of anti-discrimination legislation and put in place “judicial instruments” to help weed out attacks.
The declaration also condemns political movements with racist and xenophobic positions and notes that the economic crisis has reinforced populism and racism.
Speaking to reporters after the declaration, Kyenge thanked her counterparts for their support…”
Also on the same topic:
Attacks against black minister spark EU pact : http://www.thelocal.it/20130924/attacks-against-black-minister-spark-eu-pact
EU ministers meet to condemn racism aimed at Italian minister Cécile Kyenge : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/23/eu-ministers-racism-cecile-kyenge
Decision of the European Ombudsman closing his inquiry into complaint 1649/2012/RA against the Council of the European Union
European Ombudsman: “The background to the complaint
1. This complaint concerns the refusal of the Council of the European Union to grant public access under Regulation 1049/2001 to a document containing Common Steps towards visa-free short-term travel of Russian and EU citizens.
2. The complainant, Open Society European Policy Institute, requested access to the document on 5 June 2012. On 21 June 2012, the Council granted access only to page 1 of the document. It explained that the rest of the document was exempt from disclosure pursuant to the third indent of Article 4(1)(a) of Regulation 1049/2001 (protection of the public interest with regard to international relations).
3. On 4 July 2012, the complainant submitted a confirmatory application for access. It referred to the fact that the Common Steps had been approved at the EU-Russia Summit on 15 December 2011. It argued that as the negotiations on the Common Steps were therefore over, disclosure of the document would not undermine the protection of the public interest with regard to international relations. Moreover, as the content of the Common Steps was already known to the Russian authorities, disclosure of the documents would not negatively influence future negotiations in that framework.
4. On 24 July 2012, the Council confirmed its initial reply, namely, that access could only be granted to page 1 of the document. The Council further developed its reasons as to why public access to the rest of the document had to be denied on the basis of the third indent of Article 4(1)(a) of Regulation 1049/2001. It explained that the document is a “I/A” item note from the General Secretariat of the Council to the Permanent Representatives’ Committee and to the Council and contains the Common Steps towards visa-free short term travel of Russian and EU citizens. The Council adopted the Common Steps on 13 December 2011 and they were launched at the EU-Russia Summit on 15 December 2011. The Common Steps include a list of actions for both the EU and the Russian Federation to implement in preparation of a visa-free travel agreement. Their full implementation remains an essential precondition for the continuation of the visa dialogue…”
TTIP: Data is the elephant in the room
Euractiv: “Data protection issues have been cut out of the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), but rivalry between the two trade blocs in the critical booming sector threatens to spoil any deal.
Though it was a political decision by the US and EU to cut data protection from the ambit of the TTIP negotiations, it came against a backdrop of accelerating competition between EU and US data sector companies.
Significantly, it also came shortly before the Prism scandal (see background) began to seep revelations of data espionage, which have since soured EU-US relations.
“Data protection is a fundamental right. It is different in nature to the tariff of a good or to the schedule of a service. That’s why a discussion on standards of data protection should be kept separate from the give and take of a trade negotiation,” Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said this month (17 September).
As a result Reding said she was “grateful” that Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht agreed that data protection came outside of the scope of the TTIP.
Data is the new ‘oil’
But clarity about international data protection standards is seen as critical for strategic commercial decisions in the booming market.
Reding said in the same speech: “Data is the new currency: the value of EU citizens’ data was €315 billion in 2011. It has the potential to grow to nearly €1 trillion annually in 2020.”
According to John Boswell, a senior vice president with business analytics and software company SAS, data is the new ‘oil’ and data analytics are essential to business, job growth, innovation, prosperity and will lead to the creation of millions of jobs in the future.
“Core to this objective, are data-friendly policies that encourage the use, free-flow and analysis of data, facilitate the location of companies in Europe that focus on data-driven innovation and build the necessary framework of trust for European citizens who will ultimately benefit from the deluge of data and its analysis,” he says…”
Also on the same topic:
Stephen Fry joins demand to end NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/24/stephen-fry-petition-nsa-gchq-surveillance#rpctoken=1177662399&forcesecure=1
NSA surveillance goes beyond Orwell’s imagination – Alan Rusbridger : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/23/orwell-nsa-surveillance-alan-rusbridger
Podcast: Why online privacy and data protection still matter : http://www.humanrightseurope.org/2013/09/podcast-why-online-privacy-and-data-protection-still-matter/
MEPs raise suspension of EU-US bank data deal
European Parliament News: “MEPs raised the possibility of suspending or even terminating the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP), during the discussion on Tuesday about the NSA’s alleged tapping of the SWIFT company’s international bank-transfer data at the Civil Liberties Committee’s third hearing on US and EU countries’ surveillance schemes.
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told MEPs that she had not yet received satisfactory replies from the US authorities concerning the allegations. She said she had written to US Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen on 12 September to ask for clarifications, following the allegations in the press that the NSA had been tapping into personal financial data from SWIFT’s international bank-transfer database.
“I am not satisfied with the answers I got so far,” Ms Malmström told MEPs. “We need more information and clarity,” she said, adding that the Commission had requested formal consultations with the US under Article 19 of the TFTP agreement.
Sophie in’ t Veld (ALDE, NL) agreed that the answers from the US were not sufficient. “For me the [TFTP] agreement is effectively dead (…) it is null and void,” she said, adding: “Approving an international agreement is like signing a blank check. (…) The only reason I had to support it no longer exists.”
TFTP suspension or termination?
Other MEPs also raised the possibility of suspending or terminating the TFTP agreement. “Would you agree to suspend the agreement given the unclear answers from the US?” asked the committee rapporteur for the inquiry, Claude Moraes (S&D, UK). Parliament’s rapporteur for the TFTP deal, Alexander Alvaro (ALDE, DE), said that he would be in favour of suspension as a “minimum option”.
Axel Voss (EPP, DE), said: “At this point we cannot simply withdraw” from the deal. “If media reports are true this constitutes a breach of the agreement and a breach of the agreement can lead to suspension,” replied Ms Malmström, clarifying that a decision to maintain or suspend the TFTP agreement “is a very serious one”.
If after analysing all the information, the Commission deemed it necessary to propose a suspension, “this should be decided by qualified majority in the Council,” she said…”
EUROPEAN AREA OF FREEDOM, SECURITY AND JUSTICE
Nato wants EU countries to buy more drones
Euobserver: “Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen wants EU countries to buy more drones, refuelling planes and naval radars.
The head of the military alliance is expected to call for the measures at a speech in the Carnegie Europe foundation in Brussels on Thursday (19 September).
“I believe that European nations can, and should, do more, to match America’s commitment … [and] help to rebalance Nato,” he aims to say.
“I would like to see European allies playing their part to acquire more drones to improve surveillance. More large transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft to enhance their ability to deploy on operations. And more upgraded radars on their ships so they can be integrated into our Nato missile defence,” he plans to add.
Looking ahead to an EU summit on defence in December, he also plans to endorse European Commission ideas on how to create “a strong European defence industrial base.”
He is to say “the European defence industry remains too national and too fragmented.”
He also aims to urge EU leaders to “demonstrate strong political commitment” to spend more on defence when their economies recover from the crisis and “to assume more security responsibilities in Europe’s neighbourhood.”…”
– JUDICIAL COOPERATION IN CRIMINAL MATTERS
– – FRAUD AND CORRUPTION
Stolen EU funds in the billions, top official says
Euobserver: “The annual theft of EU funds is around €500 million, but a top European Commission official says the figure is likely in the billions.
“We have reasons to believe that the real figure is closer to billions than to millions,” Francoise Le Bail, who heads the commission’s justice directorate-general, told the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee on Wednesday (18 September).
The current €500 million figure arises from statistics sent to Olaf, the EU anti-fraud office, by member states, but Le Bail said national authorities do not have the right tools to make an accurate estimate.
Le Bail, along with Olaf boss Giovanni Kessler, spoke to MEPs to set out their case for tracking down those who steal EU money by setting up a new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).
The EU-wide prosecutor would be mandated to investigate fraud of EU finances, although the Lisbon Treaty says the office’s power could be expanded at a later date.
The top prosecutor would be composed of a central office along with deputies or prosecutors from different member states. Most member states would also have an EPPO branch staffed with prosecutors selected by the respective national governments…”
– – HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Human trafficking leads to ‘never-ending’ cycle of misery
New Europe: “Trafficking in human beings should be recognised as “a crime against humanity” and combated on a global level, according to one MEP.
Speaking to New Europe, British MEP Nikki Sinclaire said that those who find themselves at the mercy of traffickers, vulnerable people often enticed to the west on the false promise of a better life, become mired in “a never-ending cycle of misery and exploitation.”
At the core of the matter, she says, are criminal gangs that are “taking away these people’s humanity. They are extinguishing these people’s hopes for a life of sexual exploitation and servitude.”
“People trafficking is a crime against humanity. It is a very human crime,” says Sincalire, who sits in the European Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights. It also represents the third biggest criminal enterprise in Europe after drugs and illegal firearms.
The MEP was speaking after a meeting in the European Parliament focussing on human rights in eastern partnership countries on 24 September. That same day, senior European Union figures met with the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych at the UN General Assembly in New York. The EU is pursuing a political association agreement, as well as a free trade agreement, with Ukraine, an eastern partner, despite much criticism of its human rights record, and its status as a place where human beings are routinely trafficked into Europe…”