EU data protection talks resume

After a year’s impasse, the European Council, Parliament and Commission have resumed trilogue discussions on EU data protection reform.

Addressing journalists after the first round of talks, chair of parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee Claude Moraes said that this was “an incredibly important piece of work”, consisting of “over 4000 amendments”.

The current EU data protection directive was implemented in 1995, long before much of today’s technology even existed. For this reason, reforming it is “an urgent priority”, stressed Moraes.

Jan Albrecht, parliament’s rapporteur on the dossier, explained that, “our task now is to quickly achieve a legally certain and unified data protection standard, starting from the level of protection that is enshrined in the current 1995 directive”.

He added, “the first trilogue very clearly showed that this aim is achievable and realistic, as long as the three partners are open to compromise.”

“The three texts which are now on the table are far more similar to each other than any of us thought would be the case – there has been quite a lot of agreement already.” 

“Of course, there are still some differences which we need to overcome, especially when it comes to the rights of consumers and the duties of data controllers, but we will manage as long as we are committed”, highlighted Albrecht.

Latvian justice minister Dzintars Rasnačs – whose country has held the EU council presidency since January – was “glad that we have managed to achieve a general agreement on the regulation during our presidency – it’s a big step forward”.

“It’s important to have provisions in the area of data protection in the digital era”, he said, adding that, “the idea is for people to be able to exercise greater control over the data pertaining to them and get information on how their data is used”.

He also stressed that, “time is quite tight, but it’s important for us to focus on quality rather than rushing things”.

As the Latvian EU council presidency reaches its conclusion and Luxembourg gears up to take over next week, Rasnačs wished his successor “all the best and every possible success – you’ll need a lot of patience”.

His Luxembourgish counterpart Felix Braz insisted that he was approaching the talks with “quite a lot of optimism, but also determination”, explaining that during the first trilogue meeting, “we agreed on everything we should have agreed on”.

“We share the goals of the reform. We want to give people more control over their personal data and ensure the same high level of protection in the 28 member states, and also enable business to act effectively in the digital single market”, he said.

European justice, consumers and gender equality commissioner Věra Jourová was adamant that, “we are on track to adopt the data protection reform by the end of this year”, stressing that it was “a key building block of the digital single market”.

Pointing out that, “there are more points we have in common than points that divide us”, the Czech official explained, “we all agree on a number of critical elements that form the foundation of this reform: a single set of data protection rules valid across the EU, reinforced strides to put people back in control of their data, the same rules for companies from inside and outside the EU and a strong and effective one-stop shop to simplify the lives of citizens and businesses”.

And given that it has taken 20 years to update the current rules, it will perhaps come as no surprise that the new proposals “will be technologically neutral and not close the door to future innovations”.

The council, commission and parliament have agreed on a roadmap for the negotiations, however it has not yet been made public, and the only date it contains is October’s EU council summit.

Colin Marrs

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