The European Parliament's (EP) Echelon committee has approved a motion calling on the EP to ask Germany and the UK to stop US intelligence services from intercepting electronic communications on their territory.

The motion insists that the US forces agree to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Members of the European Parliament Green group, who said it "plays down the dangers of Echelon," criticized the committee's report, of which the motion forms part.

Spying history The report found that a global telephone-tapping service called Echelon has been intercepting messages and conversations on behalf of the US intelligence services since 1978. Published at the end of May, it was seen as the first official acknowledgement by the Parliament of the existence of the electronic eavesdropping network.

"The report makes an important point in emphasizing that Echelon does exist, but it stops short of drawing political conclusions," said Schröder in the statement.

The report does say that monitoring bodies responsible for scrutinizing the activities of the secret services should "attach great importance to the protection of privacy, regardless of whether the individuals concerned are their own nationals, other EU nationals or third-country nationals".

Human rights In addition, the report calls for the UK and German governments to "make the authorization of further communications-interception operations by US intelligence services on their territory conditional on their compliance with the ECHR". The report explains this to mean: "To stipulate that they should be consistent with the principle of proportionality, that their legal basis should be accessible, and that the implications for individuals should be foreseeable."