Wednesday

18th Jul 2018

Malmstrom rejects accusations of working with US to weaken data laws

  • Malmstrom denied allegations she tried to weaken Reding's data protection reforms (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

EU commissioner for home affairs Cecilia Malmstrom on Monday (29 September) rejected allegations she colluded with the Americans to water down EU data protection rules.

The allegation surfaced over the weekend in a blog post by pro-privacy campaigners Access.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

The NGO’s Brussels-based office said an email from the US state department of commerce reveal Malmstrom’s cabinet had acted as informants to the US mission in Brussels in the run-up to an overhaul of EU wide data rules.

The timing of the disclosure is sensitive coming just ahead of a grilling from MEPs on her likely role as the next EU commissioner for trade.

The issue came up in the hearing. But Malmstrom denied the allegations.

“I have read those allegations. I totally reject them. I have always defended the European data protection proposals, internally and externally. These are based on misconceptions or on lies,” she told the MEPs.

Malmstrom’s spokesperson also dismissed the Access allegations.

The contact said the Swedish commissioner has never had “any such contact” with the US and that she fully supported Reding’s overhaul of the data protection rules.

“Commission Malmstrom strongly supported her proposal and did not oppose any of its parts,” said the contact.

But the email, obtained by Access via a freedom-of-information request, suggests behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by her team to postpone and make changes to the law enforcement section of the data rules originally tabled by the commission’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding.

The email is internal correspondence between staff at the US state department and is dated 12 January 2012.

Reding published new legislation aimed at overhauling and strengthening data protection rights of European citizens and residents about a week later.

The heavily lobbied package includes a regulation on data protection reform and a separate directive on data rights, which deals with law enforcement.

The 12 January email says “a member of Malstromm’s (sic) (dg home) cabinet reached out” to the US mission.

Contents of the email suggest the staff member was keeping the US mission posted on the proposal’s developments.

This includes telling the Americans of apparent discrepancies on the data protection package between Reding’s justice and Malmstrom’s home affairs ministries.

The mail notes, for instance, that Malmstrom’s services are “concerned that Barroso’s chief of staff is friendly with Reding’s staff” and that the proposed rules would conflict with existing trans-Atlantic law enforcement agreements.

It also references a paper that Access says is a document from the Obama administration produced to influence the outcome of the legislative package.

Similar stories surfaced when the Financial Times reported a so-called anti-Fisa clause had been dropped from Reding’s package in early 2012 following intense pressure from the Americans.

The clause refers to the US law which covers foreign espionage, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa).

MEPs re-introduced the clause after a former contractor for the US National Security Agency leaked documents implicating the Americans in indiscriminate and mass surveillance of EU citizens.

Malmstrom's office says she had no input into the dropped anti-Fisa clause.

But the commissioner has come under fire from MEPs on previous occasions for not taking a tougher stand against the US spying programmes.

The US intelligence agency is accused of illegally accessing people’s financial details from the Belgian-based Swift company.

The revelation prompted an inquiry led by Malmstrom into the EU-US terrorist financial tracking programme (TFTP) agreement. The agreement allows US treasury department agents to access financial data via Swift to help them track terrorists.

Malmstrom later dropped the probe telling reporters the commission “won’t suspend any agreement with an international partner based on two newspaper articles.”

The European Parliament, for its part, passed a resolution to suspend the contract.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Polish PM defends judicial witch-hunt

Poland's judicial purge was meant to punish former communists, its PM has said, in an angry EU debate that saw him ultimately promise to respect EU court rulings.

EU leaders still in search of migration plan

Select EU leaders met amid rising tension over migration, with Italy's PM, who had threatened to boycott the summit, putting forward a new plans to stop boats from leaving Libya.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

News in Brief

  1. EU will reply 'tit for tat' to US trade measures
  2. EU Commission registers Brexit citizenship petition
  3. EU launches pre-accession probe for Albania and Macedonia
  4. Google faces multibillion euro EU fine for Android
  5. EU wants more guarantees from VW on Dieselgate fix
  6. EU to Russia: take responsibility for MH17 attack
  7. Juncker to meet Trump on 25 July
  8. EU and Japan sign trade and data deals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us