PEGA investigates Cyprus-Israel relations and possibilities of Parliament control for surveillance issue

The European Parliament’s PEGA delegation of the Inquiry Committee on Pegasus and other spyware held a meeting on Wednesday with the members of the House of Representatives’ Committees on Legal Affairs and Institutions.


The MEPs raised a series of questions including why Cyprus is an attractive destination for companies that sell software and monitoring services from Israel and what can the Cypriot Parliament do to investigate and control these complaints. The Cyprus-Israel relations were also raised.


Chair of the EP PEGA Committee Jeroen Lenaers said that meeting with the Cypriot Parliament was the highlight of their visit to Cyprus. He mentioned that there are a lot of questions related to the spyware van adding that he is interested to know more about the parliamentary dimension of the case, what has been done in the Parliament to receive information and to investigate.


MEP and rapporteur of the issue Sophia In’t Veld noted that this is a European issue and Cyprus is playing a very important role in the investigation of the subject. She said that one aspect is the abuse of spyware by European Authorities in their own citizens and another one is the issue of the exports of this kind of software.


She asked MPs to send her any documentation they have regarding the subject as soon as possible, since the first draft of her report is due next week.


“We have been explained about how there are very strict rules on exports and the use of spyware. Cyprus is a very attractive place for companies, not just for spyware, but the whole business of “hacking for hire”. They are coming to Cyprus. There are six companies that have been established by board members or former employees of NSO and they have their administration here. And I wonder: if you are coming from Israel, why do you go to Cyprus to have your administration here? It makes no sense”, she wondered.


Furthermore, she said that, since the devil is in the details, more clarifications are needed regarding the van and its equipment and whether it was returned to its owners.


Also, she noted that there’s not been any official wiretapping on journalists or other people. “What if it’s something that it’s been ordered by a third body? Because the spyware and the other technology are here, they are available”, she asked.


Finally, regarding Israel, she said that when they traveled there, they saw that they have a strict licensing system, but at the same time, marketing in export licensing systems are also a matter of political currency, in international relations.


“This morning we learnt that Cyprus is looking at the Israeli model of licensing, I am not convinced that it’s the best model to copy”, she concluded.


Chairman of the joint Committees’ meeting Cypriot MP and Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee Nicos Tornaritis presented at the beginning the constitutional and legislative framework of the Republic of Cyprus on the issue of surveillance.


He pointed out that the Committee on Legal Affairs will discuss during its next meeting about the production and distribution of software that may be used for illegal surveillance.


Chairman of the Institutions Committee Demetris Demetriou said that belief in freedom, human rights and privacy is absolute and inviolable. He talked about the Parliament’s responsible manner, saying that although there is no party majority, laws related to the issue are passed.


It is recalled that this year the European Parliament decided to set up the PEGA Committee to investigate alleged infringement or maladministration in application of EU law in relation to the use of Pegasus and equivalent spyware surveillance software.


According to the EP, in particular, the PEGA Committee is asked to gather information on the extent to which Member States or third countries are using intrusive surveillance to the extent that it violates the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.


Source: Cyprus News Agency