26 September 1998: Link to EP minutes on Echelon and multi-lingual debate on Echelon, both September 14, 1998

25 September 1998

See news reports on the EuroParl Echelon debate: http://jya.com/en092198.htm


EU-US relations and spy satellite

Monday 14 September - Commissioner Bangemann was in upbeat mood when he came before the House to explain the nature of the agreement reached at the EU-US Summit on 18 May 1998. He underlined the importance of improving relations with the US where, he said, every twelfth factory worker worked for a European company and American companies employed 3 million people in Europe. The Commissioner felt that there had been important progress in particular with regard to the extra-territorial Helms Burton legislation relating to trading with Cuba and the D'Amato law affecting investments in Iran and Libya. Both continents, he said, shared common values, rejecting the idea that relations were based on "an unequal" partnership. There had been extremely frank discussions and it would now be possible for EU companies to invest in Cuba in certain situations and to claim compensation if it could be proved that discrimination had resulted as a result of the application of the D'Amato Act. Both sides, he said, were committed to bringing down trade barriers and opening up their respective markets with regard to goods and services and to include public contracts. At the same time, there was an agreement to cooperate at an international level to deal with outstanding problems such as crime and the trafficking in drugs and women. There was also recognition of the need to reform arrangements at international level with regard to agriculture. He emphasised that the EU had not given away any concessions in the agreement and that the Commission would be coming forward with a draft implementing plan and negotiating guidelines later this week. He was confident that the "shared values" of the US and Europe would enable any small "differences" on technical issues to be overcome.

However, in the debate, MEPs were not quite so optimistic as the Commissioner, Erika Mann (D, EPP) taking the view that there were still frictions between both sides over trade issues and that Helms Burton and D'Amato had created a great deal of tension. The EU's role as a negotiating partner was also weakened by its inability to resolve international conflicts, she felt. José Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra (E, EPP) sought more clarification from the Commission on the exact nature of the agreement relating to the application of the extra-territorial legislation.

MEPs adopted the resolution emphasising the importance of EU-US relations and welcoming the New Transatlantic Agenda agreed at the 18 May London Summit. MEPs see the agreement as a means of reducing potential sources of conflict between both sides but want Congress to scrap the extra-territorial Helms-Burton and d'Amato Acts. The resolution recognises the importance of cooperation in the field of electronic surveillance for tracking down international criminal terrorists and drug traffickers but takes the view that "protective measures concerning economic information and effective encryption" should be taken to guard against abuse and threat to civil liberties posed by international telecommunications such as the "Echelon" US system.

JYA note: We were unable to find the full resolution online and would appreciate a pointer, or a hardcopy:

US Fax: 212-873-8700


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There has been no response from the Department of Defense to our request to interview Secretary Cohen about Echelon. And despite the spate of news reports on the recent Euro Parliament debate about it, there have been no questions about Echelon in DoD press briefings.