Public and private investment in information and communication technology (ICT) is bearing fruit, finds the Commission's annual progress report on i2010 – the digitally-led strategy for growth and jobs. Technology is fuelling innovation and productivity, and there are signs of fundamental change in markets and user behaviour, as Europe moves towards a knowledge-based economy.
ARTICLE 19 has released a new publication, the Central Asian Pocketbook on Freedom of Expression on its website, in English and Russian.
The Pocketbook is a key resource for anyone with an interest in promoting freedom of expression, particularly in the Central Asian republics, but also more widely, including journalists, politicians, activists, judges and media lawyers. Written in a manner that is accessible for non-experts, the Pocketbook contains a wealth of important information on standards and reference material regarding the right to freedom of expression in international law, including the recommendations of leading international bodies, experts and NGOs.
The Pocketbook, which is about 230 pages long, provides a brief but comprehensive overview of key thematic areas such as acceptable limitations on freedom of expression, regulation of the media, the rights of journalists, the law of defamation and privacy, national security and the right of access to information. It also addresses commercial issues affecting freedom of expression, and discusses how freedom of expression can be legally guaranteed and enforced through domestic and international mechanisms. While the Pocketbook is not a study of the current state of freedom of expression in the region, it does make frequent reference to the constitutions and media laws of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
A proposal for the creation of a centralized database of fingerprints from all 27 EU countries was included in a new European Commission document that sets out the goals for 2008.
The fingerprints database is to be operational by the end of 2008 and it will include sensitive information that could be shared with third parties, such as US law enforcement authorities.
This proposal, considered as a Big Brother type of initiative, has raised the opposition of the sceptics as well as supporters of EU being seen as a trap of a super-state as well as a threat to civil liberties respectively.
"The European Union is gaining criminal justice powers very rapidly. The problem is that one thing leads to another and that setting up centralised institutions is then used as an excuse for further harmonisation of powers which will take decisions about criminals and victims further away from ordinary voters." Said Neil O'Brien of Open Europe.
Baroness Ludford, a Liberal Democrat MEP, considers that this proposal rings an alarm for civil liberties and also thinks that Brussels is "overreaching itself.. Of course MEPs want to fight crime and terrorism, but individual privacy must be safeguarded. We need to know who can access this database and what the information can be used for. It is irresponsible of the European Commission to act like this. It is doing the euro-sceptics' job for them."
Brussels officials have confirmed that fact that the implementation of such a centralised database is being studied but abstained from saying whether the fingerprints would be shared with allies such as the US as it is now the case with airline passenger data.
A spokesman for Franco Frattini, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, confirmed the fact that this proposal is an additional project to the voluntary sharing of fingerprint information agreed by home affairs ministers in January and that it would be pursued as a "very important, if not indispensable, tool in combating cross-border organised crime and terrorism."