Hungary, Poland, Greece and Spain. These are countries in which cases of espionage against political rivals, journalists, activists and lawyers have been reported –and in some, proven. In Spain, a couple of weeks ago a massive case of up to 65 people spied on with Pegasus came to light, according to an investigation by Citizen Lab. But 48 years ago the Government revealed that the president, Pedro Sánchez, and the Minister of Defense , Margarita Robles, were also spied on a year ago.
The plenary session of the European Parliament, with more than fifty interventions, has been a string of conflicting positions: only the Greens and the Left have wanted the debate, while the rest of the groups understood that the commission of inquiry on Pegasus constituted in the European Parliament. However, things from the European Parliament, a popular Polish MEP, rival of the ultra-conservative PiS in the Government, has applauded the debate and has called for commissions to be opened in the 27 countries of the EU, something that his allies in Spain together with the PSOE, for example.
Meanwhile, the European Commission shows its great concern, but puts itself in profile. Not even the Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, supposedly also a victim of espionage, has participated in the debate, but the European Commissioner for Budgets, the Austrian Johannes Hahn, who has faithfully followed the arguments of the Community Executive: “We firmly condemn all illegal espionage, the Member States are the competent ones and must apply the EU legislation, including its jurisprudence, which requires the mutual control of the state organs so that the power is subject to scrutiny. This is the criterion to see if there is illegal use of spyware to access citizen data”.
“There are governments who are victims of these illegal accesses”, Hahn acknowledged: “The investigation is the responsibility of the Member States, and the European Commission hopes that the authorities will examine the accusations and restore the confidence of the citizens”.
“The commission of inquiry has been established”, said Hahn, “and from the European Commission we are not only going to listen, but we want to contribute to the work. We are concerned that there are these scandals, they must be clarified, and it is time for prosecutors, police from the countries where these assumptions are to intervene. They have to use their laws. There is already a regulation, but is it respected? You have to reflect on whether there is room for improvement. Illegal eavesdropping is not acceptable, it is not something that can be taken lightly, it is a sanctioned crime”.
The socialist Juan Fernando López, member of the Pegasus commission and president of the Civil Liberties Commission of the European Parliament, has pointed out: “Pegasus is very expensive, indicators have barely emerged that 20 States have the program, including Hungary and Poland. , again. The commission has a lot to know, a lot to explore. What I know is that the objective must be European legislation, with testimonies and documents. It is a threat unknown until now, not taking it seriously would be assuming the risks for which democracies end up dying”.
Jeroen Lenaers, popular Dutchman and president of the Pegasus commission, has made a very different speech from that of his Spanish bench colleagues: “The use of these spy programs against journalists, politicians and citizens, is a horrible experience and a threat to the rule of law and democracy. I am frustrated by the position of the European Commission. Spying on citizens has to do with the rule of law, not with national security.”
Thus, Dolors Montserrat, head of the PP delegation in the European Parliament, declared: “In Spain, some independence supporters struck a blow against a European democracy. Some were convicted and others fled from justice. I’m not taking lessons from a fugitive. They have found victimization in this debate. The least that can be expected is that those who promise to repeat crimes be investigated. If the State is attacked, the State must defend itself. Regarding the report on which the complaint is based, the suspicious coincidence of the participation of a person accused of promoting violence in Catalonia should be ascertained, as well as the fact that it was published one day before the constitution of the Pegasus commission. There are too many coincidences. We cannot accept blackmail or cede power or agree with them, the government cannot put the wolf to watch the sheep. We must demand that the Spanish president give explanations for not being up to the moment”.
On the contrary, the popular Polish MEP Andrzej Halicki, has defended: “We have to uncover the scandals, the details of these cases. We cannot allow anyone to break the law. It is not security of the right or of the left, but respect for the rights of all. You gentlemen of the PiS [aliados de Vox]They have problems. Pegasus can be used illegally against democracy, the opposition or the European Commission. If the European Commission makes decisions about sanctions, it can be sweet to spy on them. We need to know the hacked data, and the situation of the national prosecutors. Commissions should be set up in all national parliaments”.
In the same way, the Dutch liberal Sophie in’t Veld, has not shared the speech of her fellow bench member Jordi Cañas (Citizens): “You have to know who is behind it. It is not just about the individual victims whose privacy has been violated. It is an attack on the decision-making process in Europe. It’s about accountability.”
Thus, Cañas has said: “It is paradoxical that those who have been accused of spying denounce espionage without evidence. Those who prevented a commission in the Parliament of Catalonia, now use this Parliament without evidence. The separatists are experts in propaganda and lies. They accuse without proof, using and abusing everything to proclaim the lie.”
Jordi Solé (ERC), an MEP from the Verdes group and who appears in the Citizen Lab investigation as being spied on, intervened: “In the EU we have governments that like to play spies and practice political espionage. And the fanatics of the reason of State dare to justify it. I have been one of the 65 victims of Pegasus, surely by the Spanish secret services. Who gave the order to violate the right to privacy? Was there judicial authorization? How could a judge authorize such massive espionage? Where is the stolen data? How much public money has been used? We have learned that Sánchez and Robles claim to have been spied on. Have you chosen the moment? Do they want to normalize or dilute our case? We must not tolerate political espionage in the EU.”
Pernando Barrena, MEP for EH Bildu in the group of La Izquierda, stated in the plenary session: “In a rule of law, nothing justifies Pegasus surveillance of elected politicians, activists and journalists. Institutions must investigate which governments have broken the law by spying on political opponents. Hungary and Poland have used Pegasus, and also the Spanish intelligence service. It is serious that Spain is spying on members of this parliament. Our group proposes the prohibition of mass espionage technologies. And that member states face consequences for their use.”
Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont (Junts), also spied on according to the Citizen Lab investigation, explained: “Citizen Lab has revealed espionage to more than 60 people in Catalonia, the largest documented espionage case. It is used without control by authoritarians and democracies that spy on journalists, lawyers, politicians and ordinary citizens. Europe cannot look the other way. Without the EU there is no democracy in Europe. Pegasus and democracy are not compatible.
In this sense, the former Minister of Health and also a victim of espionage, Toni Comín, has addressed the PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos: “Why do they say yes to the investigation commission in the European Parliament and not in Spain?” . And the PP MEP Juan Ignacio Zoido has asked: “Did you use pegasus when you were minister of the interior?”
Zoido, for his part, has responded: “It is essential for our security force. Jihadist attacks have been frustrated, drug trafficking has been stopped… But when governments move away from that, they deserve our utmost condemnation. Nothing to do with what some claim. In Spain, the rule of law and judicial supervision are respected. And we see the theater of those who want Europe to forget about its violations of the rule of law. But its theaters no longer deceive anyone.
Javier Zarzalejos, also a PP MEP, has echoed the line of his colleagues: “There are free riders here, travelers without Pegasus tickets who are fugitives from justice, and who have starred in the most flagrant violation of the Constitution. It is necessary to separate between dissidents and fugitives, those who in the name of independence lead seditious processes, when the state legitimately defends itself.
Diana Riba, ERC MEP and also on the Citizen Lab list, said: “I have been spied on, so you are all collateral victims. Your rights have been violated. My case is not unique, hundreds of journalists, politicians, have been victims, no one should suffer massive espionage. The Spanish Government must report who is using it in the State, how, against whom, and what is done with this stolen information. There are reactionary sectors anchored in pre-democratic dynamics with their own political agenda. The greatest opposition to authoritarian dynamics is the independence movement, that is why we are imprisoned, ruined and spied on. Be on the side of democracy, transparency, not only in Poland and Hungary, but in Spain”.
The Junts MEP, Clara Ponsatí, also on Citizen Lab’s list of 65, has stated: “It is a violation with the complacency of the Council [los Gobiernos] and the European Commission. Do we want to be part of the disease or do we want to stop it? Are they going to persecute minorities? we do not ask [a la Comisión Europea] that solve our problem, but rather that they fulfill their duty to defend our rights against an authoritarian state.”
The secretary of the Podemos International and MEP, Idoia Villanueva, pointed out in the debate: “We should all support the investigations. Pegasus is being used against democracy and the rights of all. Europe must investigate, demand responsibilities and guarantees of non-repetition”.
IU spokeswoman, Sira Rego, said in her speech: “The use of Pegasus is an unprecedented scandal. A private company is marketing with impunity a weapon to destroy democracy. In my country, even the President of the Government and other political and social leaders have been spied on. Given these facts that change the rules of democracy, how is any citizen going to feel protected? We need transparency, democracy, purge responsibilities”.
The socialist Iban García del Blanco has pointed out, for his part: “There are no first-class or second-class spies. It affects the health of the Rule of Law. We need explanations and evidence of the espionage, also explanations from the company. We take it for granted that they are only sold to States, but that needs to be found out. No conclusions should be anticipated. We have constituted a commission, it has 12 months and there is no need to capitalize on local issues. We have to be patient, do our job and take advantage of the commission to find out the truth”.
Izaskun Bilbao (PNV) maintained during his speech: “When instead of opening a debate, you opt for ‘go for them’, espionage, control of the courts, the imprisonment of ideas… Behind every illegal espionage there is a ‘go for them’. We ask the European Commission for more principles and fewer interests; we are committed to dialogue, peace and the word, for democracy and for more democracy as the best antidote against shame and this scandal”.
The far-right MEP Jorge Buxadé (Vox), has interjected: “The grotesque thing is to see escaped coup separatists and terrorist gangs say that they have been spied on. But if they have been spying, kidnapping and killing. Little have they spied on them and little have they persecuted them. Do you want a stronger and safer Europe? Talk about security at the borders in the face of illegal immigration and on the streets in the face of mass violations or in the companies that leave because of climate bigotry.”