EU ministers are gathering in Stockholm this week to advance their work on the Stockholm Programme, a five-year plan they claim is designed to make it easier to catch criminals and keep Europe’s citizens safe.
But despite soothing words from politicians about the programme’s virtues, it’s critical for EU citizens to stand up now and protest against the threat it presents to privacy and individual rights.
On the surface, the Stockholm Programme’s professed set of goals may appear somewhat benign – perhaps even sensible –with its calls for increased cooperation to fight terrorism and organized cross-border crime.
But we’ve already got a pretty good idea that the kinds of measures under consideration for meeting the Stockholm Programme’s goals are anything but benign.
In short, we’re talking about increased surveillance which tramples on the privacy rights of individuals and about higher walls being constructed around Europe’s borders.
Last summer, a number of details about the concrete steps associated with the Stockholm Programme were leaked from the EU’s so-called Future Group in connection with a meeting of EU justice ministers in Nice.
While the drafters of the Stockholm Programme profess it is a tool that will aid the “free movement of people” within the EU, there is very little about one’s movements that will remain “free” if EU ‘securocrats’ are allowed to implement the sorts of measures hinted at in the Future Group document.
Among other things, the leaked Future Group document envisages “new and more flexible expulsion and surveillance measures” which would make it easier for states across Europe to gather increasingly detailed information about citizens and their movements, as well as block the entry of others.
Moreover, the authors also discuss the need for “increased synergies between police and security intelligence services” across Europe, meaning that information gathered by local law enforcement in Piteå could eventually end up in the hands of counter-terrorism agents in Palermo.
Are we really “free” if our movements are tracked by the state and that information can end up being read by any intelligence or law enforcement agency in Europe?
Will we be “free” if the state has access to information about our banking habits, internet use, and can pinpoint our location using mobile phone data?
Whatever happened to the notion that the citizens of Europe could go about their business without having Big Brother continually tapping them on the shoulder and watching them with a suspicious eye?
While the indications we’ve seen so far about the plans for fulfilling the Stockholm Programme are frightening, it’s still early enough in the process for the citizens of Europe to make their voices heard.
While demonstrators plan on taking to the streets in Stockholm, we here at the European Parliament in Brussels are getting ready to fight the next round from within the system.
It’s going to be a long, difficult autumn for us privacy advocates and bloggers as we do battle to make sure some of the more intrusive proposals don’t end up making it into the final document, which is expected to be presented for signature in December by heads of state and government EU Summit in Stockholm.
And even in the years after the programme is adopted, those of us who support privacy rights will have to be vigilant regarding additional measures which will likely be debated in reference to the Stockholm Programme.
But what’s important now is that we, at an early stage, show how we feel and are clear about what concerns us.
If the politicians don’t meet with some resistance, they’ll never put the brakes on the Stockholm Programme before it ends up in a train wreck of invasive measures which all but wipe out any notion of personal privacy and integrity among the citizens of Europe.
It’s exciting to see how many activists have been mobilized so far by these important issues of privacy and individual rights. And it’s important to protest. If we don’t, politicians won’t realize that they’ve stepped over the line.
So get out and demonstrate! Blog, write, and shout to show everyone in the capitals of Europe as well as the European capital that privacy is an important right for every individual in the 27 member states of the European Union,
If we don’t speak loudly now, we may find our views barely able to utter a whisper without the Big Brother of Europe holding his hand across our mouths.
Henrik Alexandersson is one of Sweden’s best known political bloggers. He was recently recruited by the Swedish Pirate Party to work an advisor in Brussels to newly elected MEP Christian Engström.