On Thursday afternoon, the European Parliament voted in favour of dropping all charges facing Edward Snowden, and granting him asylum on the continent.
Unfortunately for Snowden, it doesn’t mean he can leave Russia just yet.
The former NSA contractor is currently holed up in Russia after leaking hundreds of thousands of highly confidential documents to journalists about the US government surveillance apparatus. He fears he will not get a fair trial in the US, and as such sought — and was granted — asylum in Russia.
Hearing reports EU just voted 285-281, overcoming huge pressure, to cancel all charges against me and prevent extradition. Game-changer.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 29, 2015
It’s all but guaranteed that if he sets foot in most European countries, he will be immediately arrested and extradited to the US. The current vote won’t change this: It isn’t legally binding. If Snowden flew to the UK, for example, he could still legally be arrested, despite the vote.
But these kind of votes can signal which way the wind is blowing in Europe. In November 2014, the European Parliament voted to break up Google. This, obviously, hasn’t happened — but Google is now facing significant scrutiny in the continent, including antitrust allegations.
285 MEPs voted in favour of the vote, and 281 voted against it. It wasn’t a big margin, but Snowden took to Twitter to celebrate the vote: