Parliamentary Question: Role of EU-based ICT companies in human right violations (particularly in Syria)

Marietje

Parliamentary questions

9 November 2011 O-000294/2011   Question for oral answer to the Commission Rule 115 Marietje Schaake, Niccolò Rinaldi, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Marielle De Sarnez, Kristiina Ojuland, Giommaria Uggias, Sir Graham Watson, Edward McMillan-Scott, on behalf of the ALDE Group Subject: Role of EU-based ICT companies in human right violations (particularly in Syria)  On 4 November 2011 it was reported(1) that the Italian company Area SpA is currently equipping the Syrian government with the technology to intercept, scan and catalogue all internet traffic in Syria by probing the traffic of mobile phone companies and ISPs, capturing both domestic and international traffic. Several other EU-based companies have also been involved in similar transactions – i.e. Ericsson AB, Nokia, Siemens Networks, Bull SA, Vodafone Inc.(2) The EU and the international community have imposed economic and targeted sanctions against the Syrian regime as over 3 000 citizens have been killed. 1. Is the Commission aware of these reports and, if so, what action has been taken at EU level to investigate and address these business policies? If none has been taken, does the Commission approve of these business practices? 2. Under current EU legislation (including sanctions and other restrictive measures in force), are EU-based companies allowed to sell monitoring and surveillance technologies to governments, in particular to Syria, if the end use is certain to lead to human rights violations? If so, is the Commission willing to seek additional ways to restrict and/or end these exports? 3. Can the Commission explain the division of responsibilities between the Commission and Member States regarding the export of technologies? 4. Will the Commission support, or push for, changes to the current dual-use export mechanism in order to establish stronger oversight by the Commission, more transparency from both businesses and Member States, and ad hoc export restrictions to address human rights concerns related to EU exports of ICTs? 5. Can the Commission confirm that the deployment of employees in Syria by EU-based companies is not covered by Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 of 5 May 2009, but by the Council Joint Action of 22 June 2000 concerning the control of technical assistance related to certain military end-uses? Can and will the Commission invoke the Joint Action to block further technical assistance to the Syrian government? 6. What action will the Commission take, together with the Italian government, to ensure that the monitoring centre currently installed by Area SpA in Damascus will not be completed or become operational? 7. Is the Commission willing to begin an EU inquiry into the role and/or complicity of EU-based ICT companies in human rights violations in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Iran? 8. Does the Commission agree that active involvement of EU-based companies in human rights violations undermines the credibility of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)? (1) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-03/syria-crackdown-gets-italy-firm-s-aid-with-u-s-europe-spy-gear.html. (2) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124562668777335653.html#mod=rss_whats_news_us; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-31/iranian-police-seizing-dissidents-get-aid-of-western-companies.html;http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-22/torture-in-bahrain-becomes-routine-with-help-from-nokia-siemens-networking.html; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904199404576538721260166388.html; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203687504577001911398596328.html?mod=googlenews_wsj;http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jul/26/vodafone-access-egypt-shutdown.