FECL 24 (May 1994):
In 1993, the then Belgian presidency of the Council mentioned the interception of communications in its programme of priority action under the rubric "Other action deserving particular attention". The programme namely stated the need for a study of both the legal and judicial aspects of interception and of the technical aspects in the context of advanced technology.
In 1993 the Council of Ministers responsible for telecommunications adopted a resolution on the introduction of Personal Satellite Communication Services (PSCS) in the European Community.
According to the draft recommendation, "the global dimensions of PSCS and the related technical frameworks are of major importance to European telecommunication policies and practices" and it states that "while respecting the provisions of the European Convention on human rights, the Member States of the Union value the legally authorized interception of communications for the protection of national interests, in particular in relation to national security and the investigation of serious and organised crime".
Technical developments in telecommunications threaten to jeopardise the execution of these "interception powers in accordance with the respective national laws by the competent national authorities". The draft therefore recommends that:
At its Brussels meeting on 23 March, the Council (Justice and Home Affairs) decided that work on the draft should be continued with a view to reach final agreement on a recommendation when Germany holds the presidency of the Council.
Sources: Draft Recommendation of the Council concerning the legally authorized interception of telecommunications, European Union, Report to the Council (Justice and Home affairs); Brussels, 4.3.94, 5373/94, restricted; Working agenda of the Council of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs at Brussels, 23.3.94, Point 6.
Concern about the difficulties in tapping conversations via GSM arose first in Germany (see FECL No.13, p.6). The current invulnerability of digital communication networks with regard to telephone tapping constitutes a breach of the German network licence under which interception must be possible for authorities at any time. German intelligence too expressed concern, as the GSM is putting their world-wide eavesdropping activities at risk.
As the mention of the "protection of national interests" and "national security" in the recommendation indicates, similar interests of secret services in other EU member State are likely to have played a role in this attempt to take common action.