Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

Leading EU party wants to ditch EU-US data agreement

The European Parliament’s largest political group, the centre-right EPP, wants to end an EU-US data exchange agreement known as Safe Harbour.

German centre-right MEP Manfred Weber, who is the group’s vice-president, told this website on Tuesday (29 October) in an email that the “EPP group wants to terminate the agreement as it stands now and negotiate new rules.”

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Facebook's new custom-built Data Center based in Prineville, Oregon - the company has signed up to Safe Harbour (Photo: Tom Raftery)

He said American IT companies are not respecting the terms of the agreement, meant to protect the personal data of EU citizens.

“There have been doubts if the firms always fully comply with the rules, not just since the revelations about the NSA activities. This has to stop,” he said.

He added that clear ground rules are needed to protect the personal data of EU citizens from the US-based companies.

“That is why we are saying ‘yes’ to a strict EU data protection legislation but ‘no’ to the Safe Harbour Agreement in its present form,” he said.

Critics say the so-called Safe Harbour agreement is full of loopholes and rarely enforced by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Around 3,000 US companies have signed up to the self-certification scheme, which is only enforceable once the company makes a promise to adhere to a handful of privacy principles.

An annual compliance check by an independent body is not mandatory. Those which opt-out of the an independent review are required to review themselves.

The agreement, which excludes financial services, transport, and telecommunications sectors, was signed over a decade ago between the FTC and the European Commission.

A European Parliament civil liberties committee earlier this month revealed that one in seven companies lie about belonging to the agreement.

“At the time, they [EPP] wanted to uphold it [Safe Harbour],” said Dutch liberal Sophie in 't Veld.

The parliament last week passed a non-binding resolution to scrap a separate Swift agreement, which involves the transfer of bank data between the US and the EU.

“The German MEPs wanted to keep the Swift agreement, so it seems they’ve come to higher insights fairly rapidly,” she noted.

For her part, EU commissioner for justice Viviane Reding raised concerns over the agreement in a speech delivered at a trade conference in Washington DC.

She noted that “inter-operability and self-regulation is not enough” to restore the trust the American’s have lost in the EU since the on-going NSA revelations.

"The existing scheme has been criticised by European industry and questioned by European citizens: they say it is little more than a patch providing a veil of legitimacy for the US firms using it," said Reding.

Her department is set to issue an analysis of the Safe Harbour before the end of year.

Meanwhile, a handful of MEPs from the civil liberties committee are in Washington DC as part of the overall inquiry into the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens by the NSA.

The nine-member delegation, led by British centre-left MEP Claude Moraes, are set to discuss the agreement with US federal trade commissioner on Wednesday.

A EU contact in Washington said the Americans will have to rebuild the confidence lost as a result of the on-going NSA-led snooping allegations on EU citizens and their leadership.

“It [Safe Harbour] is wider than the immediate wire-tapping because that has consequences or that has implications on trust on how we work together,” noted the contact.

Analysis

Why Romania erupted in protest

Current anger over corruption laws can be traced back to a night-club fire in 2015, when many died because of lax safety standards. Romanians then realised that corruption can kill.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  2. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions
  3. Irish PM expected to quit amid police scandal
  4. After Brexit vote, 100,000 UK firms registered in Ireland
  5. Bayrou to support Macron in French presidential election
  6. British by-election tests Ukip strength after Brexit
  7. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree
  8. Dozens drown off Libyan coast

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  2. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  3. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  4. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  5. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  8. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  11. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  12. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year