|Visit by EU home affairs commissioner Malmström triggers protests (17 Feb 2011)
When EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström visited the European Police Congress in Berlin yesterday, concerned citizens protested in front of the building. They criticised mostly Malmström's lack of support for ending EU-wide telecommunications data retention as well as her Internet blocking plans and Malmström's support for a proposal to keep a record of every citizen's air travel. The demonstration in front of the Berlin Congress Center was organised by the Working Group on Data Retention, the Green Youth, the Gene-ethical Network, the Humanist Union and the Pirate Party.
At 3 p.m. activists of the Gene-ethical Network took DNA samples of participants of the 14th European Police Congress. An oversized cotton bud oversaw the collection of DNA material which (despite the saying "nothing to hide, nothing to fear") only very few participants of the police congress consented to. The event was part of the campaign "Stop DNA collection mania! Hands off my DNA" run by the Network to raise awareness of the growing DNA databases of German police authorities and of their international accessibility.
At 4 p.m. the protest rally began with speeches by members of all supporting groups. They were again and again interrupted by chants of "we are here, and we will fight - privacy is everybody's right!" and "data retention is here to go". At the end of the demonstration participants sang a German protest song against political repression and censorship called "Thoughts are free", the first stanza of which reads: "No scholar can map them, no hunter can trap them, no man can deny: Die Gedanken sind frei!"
Ms Malmström’s portfolio as EU Commissioner is Home Affairs, which means that she is in charge of a large number of measures that lead to significant limitations and restrictions of liberties and human rights of the entire European population. For example, the European directive on the controversial measure of telecommunications data retention is currently being evaluated (reviewed). Without factual arguments or statistical evidence for the necessity or proportionality of blanket telecommunications data retention, and before the European Commission finished its evaluation report, Ms Malmström voiced her support for continuing the measure in early December 2010: “Data retention is here to stay.” Ms Malmström is also responsible for a proposed EU directive that would for the first time establish a legal basis to enable Internet blocking throughout Europe. Also, the Commissioner for Home Affairs is actively driving forward plans for a blanket registration of air passenger name records, under the usual excuse of “fighting terrorism”, even though past experience has clearly shown that similar measures in the US had no significant effect on the prevention of terrorist attacks. They have, however, led to the registration and long-term storage of many people’s sensitive personal data, which just like many other “anti-terrorist measures” means a serious restriction of the right to free movement. We regard all these measures as threats to fundamental human rights, obstructing the free development of our society.
Photos of the rally (in public domain):
The following protest flyer was distributed: