Euro-MPs agreed yesterday a compromise proposal on storing telecommunications data which they hope can break a deadlock with EU member states over the counter-terrorism measure, European Parliament sources said.
Britain, which chairs the EU, wants a deal before the end of the year on plans to force telecoms firms to store records of phone and Internet use, but lawmakers and member states disagree on the proposals, including how long the data should be stored.
EU justice and interior ministers hold their last planned meeting in Brussels this year on Thursday and Friday and will discuss the measures. The last-minute offer from EU lawmakers could help Home Secretary Charles Clarke clinch a deal.
The sources stressed the proposal -- agreed by lawmakers from the assembly's two largest groups, the Socialists and the Christian Democrats -- was a final one.
"This is our last, ultimate offer," one source said.
After the July 7 London attacks, Britain made it a key priority of its six-month European Union presidency to get a deal on the measures.
Clarke is trying to get agreement on plans presented by the European Commission in September, but the proposals must be approved jointly by ministers and EU MPs before they can enter into force.
The sources said socialist and conservative lawmakers were ready to extend the required storage time for data on telephone calls to between six and 24 months from the six to 12 months proposed by the parliament's civil liberties committee.
Data on Internet use would be stored for six months.
The telecoms firms would not store information about the content of phone calls or e-mails, but only register data such as telephone numbers, the length of calls and email and Internet addresses.
Telecoms firms typically store data for three months for billing purposes, but some EU states want it kept for two years.
EU MPs have offered to change provisions which would have forced EU states to carry the costs to telecoms firms of complying with the rules, so that authorities would only pay for the data handed over to them by the companies, the sources said.
The lawmakers also offered EU states the possibility of demanding that telecoms firms keep records of unanswered calls or calls where the line is busy, and store the information.
But they insisted that the data should only be used in investigations of the 32 serious crimes listed in the EU's arrest warrant. They include terrorism, murder, drug trafficking and human trafficking.
If EU ministers do not accept the offer, then the full parliament will in December vote on proposals approved by its civil liberties committee earlier this month which are further from what the ministers want, the sources said.
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