EU Data protection regulation stalled again
On 6 December 2013, the EU justice ministers took again a step back in adopting the EU Data Protection Regulation.
The day was considered by EU commissioner for justice, Viviane Reding as a disappointing one for data privacy. What was this time? “The ministers did not want to make hasty decisions,” Lithuanian Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis told reporters. The issue having caused the delay seems to be the so-called one-stop shop principle which harmonizes decision-making across the EU.
Hubert Legal, head of the legal service for the European Council said the one-stop shop rule undermined citizens’ human rights. “The problem is the results you get in terms of respecting the functioning of justice and people’s rights is actually a very bad outcome a very bad result and as your legal adviser I have to tell you it’s a bad outcome.” Mr Legal believes that under the one-stop-shop system, EU citizens whose data had been mishandled by a company based in another member state would face linguistic and financial barriers discouraging them from going to court.
Ms Reding reacted by claiming that talks should now be at a “political” rather than “legal” stage, drawing attention on the fact that that current data protection legislation was fragmented, inconsistent and needed to be fixed. She insisted that the commission’s own legal review provided assurance that the one-stop-shop was legal.
Yet, the issue seems more complicated for some member states. It appears that Germany, with the support of Sweden and Belgium, is partly responsible for the delay. Although the Commission’ briefings on the Council’s meeting in October 2013 show that an agreement on the one-stop-shop issue was reached, in fact Member States are still to find a common ground on the extent of their powers beyond authorization.
A note from the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council circulated in late November 2013 revealed how Member States were unable to agree on the DPAs power to order fines and other penalties and on a practical mechanism for consumer redress.
There was also a debate around the legal form of the bill – regulation or directive. The UK, for instance, wants to downgrade the “regulation” into a “directive.” A passed EU regulation is immediately applicable across the EU while a directive must be transposed into national law, which can take years.