Free news – 12 – 15 January – Strasbourg session

Report from the Plenary Session in Strasbourg : 12-15 January

13 January : Surveillance of lawyers in the EU – oral questions

On 13 January 2015, the intervention of the EU intervention so as to ensure the respect for the right of lawyers to confidentiality of their communication with their clients was the object of an oral question during the plenary session in Strasbourg.

The debates echoed the revelation of surveillance of Dutch law firm Prakken d’Oliveira by Dutch secret service (AIVD) for years. The questions for oral answer to the Council were the following:

  1. Is the Commission aware of the (disproportionate) secret surveillance of lawyers and their clients that is being carried out by the Member States?
  2. Does the Commission believe that the secret surveillance of lawyers and their clients complies with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, notably Articles 6, 47 and 48 thereof?
  3. Does the Commission deem the secret surveillance of lawyers and their clients to be compatible with Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer, and notably Article 4 thereof which obliges Member States to respect the confidentiality of communication between suspects or accused persons and their lawyer?
  4. Will the Commission address the issue of the violation of lawyer-client confidentiality with the Netherlands, and will it see to it that the Netherlands and other Member States respect lawyer-client confidentiality in law and practice?

On behalf of the Council, Zanda Kalniņa Lukaševica, contended that the Council was not in position to make any comments on secret surveillance launched on by the Member states. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the safeguarding of internal security is on the responsibility of member states. The EU law doesn’t apply to national security services.

The Commissioner for Justice, consumers and gender equality, Vĕra Jourová, recalled in the same way that the EU is not responsible for member states intelligence services surveillance.

Those answers didn’t prevent some MEP’s to claim the need for the EU to intervene so as to guarantee the right of confidentiality of lawyers’ communications. Furthermore, they asked the commission and the Council to take steps forward in order to define in a precise way the concept of “national security”. According to Jan Philipp Albrecht (Greens/ALE Group) this question should be raised before the European Court of Justice so as to ensure the respect by the member states of the rule of law.

Despite those arguments, the position of the Commission and the Council remained the same. As far as the issue of national security falls under the competence of Member states and national security bodies, the Commission and the Council cannot intervene in this field.

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