EU lawmakers refuse to bend on data storage plan

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers said on Monday they will not back down in a dispute with member states over storing details of telephone and internet traffic to fight terror and other serious crime.

European Parliament member Alexander Alvaro said the assembly was still committed to reaching a deal on data storage with member states by the end of the year, but only if countries gave it a say in how the controversial measures are introduced.

"What we are not going to accept now is to have a gun held against our heads," Alvaro told a meeting of European and national deputies.

Last week EU justice ministers failed to resolve a dispute with the EU parliament over who should be involved in drawing up the measures and how much should privacy be protected.

The two sides disagree over how long the data should be kept, and who should pay for the storage fees.

The British presidency of the EU and some other states want a deal that would only involve EU governments and so effectively bypass parliament, though this would require unanimity among all 25 states in the bloc. The Commission has made a rival proposal which would require parliamentary and member states approval.

Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen argued at last week's meeting of member states that an institutional battle in Brussels should not hold up the measures, and that states must decide if they were afraid of terrorists or the parliament.

The comments won some support at that meeting but angered lawmakers on Monday.

"There can only be a compromise when there is willingness to compromise on both sides. You can't have negotiations on a take-it-or-leave-it basis," Alvaro said.

And lawmakers doubted that states can go it alone.

Lousewies van der Laan of the Dutch parliament said it was important for the European legislature to challenge the member state Council of Ministers' secrecy.

"We are going to retain data of 450 million citizens and we cannot keep this in a secret backroom of the Council," she said.
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