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BBC European affairs correspondent WiIlliam Horsley
Allegations that satellite interception used improperly against EU countries
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 05:13 GMT 06:13 UK
Calls to investigate US spy network
Satellite dish
MEPs want an investigation in spying allegations
By Europe correspondent Colin Blane

The European Parliament will hear fresh calls on Thursday for an inquiry into a controversial spy network.

There have been complaints from MEPs that the United States has been using the Echelon electronic surveillance system to steal commercial secrets from European governments and companies.

Some Euro MPs led by the Greens are now demanding a special committee of inquiry into allegations that the United States has been using the Echelon system to listen in to billions of phone calls, faxes and e-mail messages for its own economic advantage.

A report last month to the European Parliament last month identified the Echelon eavesdropping network as a tool for industrial espionage.

There have also been complaints from a number of Euro MPs about Britain's participation in Echelon.

Debate

Following the publication of the report, the European Commission has agreed to make a statement to parliament before the debate.

The statement is expected to be made by the Information Commissioner Erkki Likanen.

There is a difference of opinion within the parliament about the possible legal basis for the proposed committee of inquiry.

Those in favour of it say that spying could be considered under the heading of data protection or competition - while others believe it is not within the competence of the parliament to act on security issues.

It is thought the debate on Echelon is likely to continue into the following session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg next month.

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US spy system under attack
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