The British EU presidency has given MEPs in Strasbourg a preview of its controversial new counter-terrorism proposals. These include common European laws on data retention. Concerns have been raised about fighting terrorism more effectively without undermining civil liberties. Interior minister Charles Clarke also raised the subject of personal documents:
“We argue that internationally consistent and coherent biometric data should be an automatic part of our visas, passports and identity cards — when we have them. And I would even suggest driving licences as well.” There have been complaints from MEPs that member states want to adopt the proposed measures without the European Parliament having a say. Liberal leader Graham watson put it in perspective: “We feel that is very important to balance individual freedoms against the public interest for greater security. If we are talking about deporting people to countries where they may be tortured or jailed, if we are talking about detention without trial, if we are talking about unlimited access for the police to people’s e-mails or telephone conversations, then we want to see the right judicial safeguards firmly in place.” In the wake of the summer attacks in London, EU states want common rules on data use brought in swiftly. London says governments could help industry with the data storage costs. UK police say they already pay for communications data — hundreds of thousands of euros in a terrorist investigation.