• The EU data protection bill has been delayed as member states fail to reach any agreement (Photo: infocux Technologies)

EU data bill delayed until after May elections

24.01.14 @ 09:27

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - The EU's revamped data protection law will not be adopted before the European Parliament elections with several member states seeking to weaken it.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, the European Parliament lead negotiators on the package, the Greek EU presidency and the incoming Italian EU presidency Wednesday (22 January) agreed to set the deadline until before the end of the year.

“They have elaborated a road map and now they need to deliver on it basically but I think the political agreement to get this done before the end of the year is there,” Reding’s spokesperson Mina Andreeva told this website.

German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who is steering the regulation through parliament, said the timetable aims at a mandate for negotiations in June and the beginning of inter-instutitional negotiations in July.

“If it will be possible to stick to this timetable, this would be good news and important,” he told this website in an email.

But the deadline agreement does not guarantee the package, which includes a general data protection regulation and a directive on law enforcement, will be adopted.

Member states still have to reach a general approach before kicking off negotiations with the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The parliament and the commission had hoped to get the package adopted before the European elections in May.

The civil liberties committee last October was given the mandate to start negotiations right away but member states at a summit in December failed to reach an agreement among themselves.

The delay means deputies will now have to vote to start formal negotiations with member states at the plenary session either in March or in April.

EU insiders are hoping the member states will at least reach a partial approach in March and then a full agreement over the summer.

The delays are caused, in part, by a handful of member states that want to weaken the regulation, which aims at harmonising data protection rules across the bloc.

Among the core group is the UK, along with Denmark, Hungary, and Slovenia. All four are pushing to turn the regulation into a directive.

Unlike a regulation, a directive gives member states room to manoeuvre and interpret the EU law to their advantage.

Germany is also among the delaying camp of member states but for different reasons. The Germans support the regulation but do not want it applied to the public sector.

“Obviously the German government is against European-wide common rules. This behaviour is irresponsible against the EU citizens,” said Albrecht.

Support from Poland, seen a staunch ally of the reforms, is also waning, according to their data protection authority Wojciech Wiewiorowski.

Wiewiorowsk, at a panel on data protection organised by the CPDP conference in Brussels on Wednesday, said the European commission had exhausted its political will to pressure member states to get the package adopted.

He said support in Poland is dropping because the regulation, announced two years ago by the commission, is taking too long.

Member states in October had agreed that the data protection package should be in place by the latest in 2015.