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Surveillance by intelligence services: more oversight bodies, but no access to remedies

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An increased number of oversight bodies in EU Member States now monitors the work of intelligence services. But people whose human rights were violated still have difficulty getting justice, finds an update from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). It supports the work of the European Parliament Committee investigating the use of the Pegasus spyware (PEGA). The Parliament will adopt its final resolution on spyware in June 2023.

The Agency’s Surveillance by intelligence services: fundamental rights safeguards and remedies in the EU – 2023 update focuses on the developments in intelligence laws across the EU since 2017.

These developments include:

  • Oversight bodies – there are now 18 expert bodies overseeing the work of intelligence services across all EU countries (up from 16 in the EU 28 in 2017). The report describes five distinct models of oversight, which demonstrate that the systems vary greatly across the EU.
  • Remedies – access to effective remedies remains difficult for people who claim the intelligence services violated their rights. The 2016 EU data protection reform changed the national data protection authorities’ involvement. Some EU countries reduced the authorities’ remedial powers, others reinforced them.

As in 2017, FRA maintains that EU countries need to respect people’s rights while protecting the public from security threats. This can be achieved through strong oversight and access to effective remedies.

The European Parliament requested FRA to collect information on existing models of intelligence services oversight and remedies across the EU to support the PEGA committee’s investigations.

The PEGA Committee published its report on 8 May. The European Parliament is expected to vote on the text during the plenary session starting 12 June.