Tuesday

17th Jul 2018

Holocaust reference in EU data bill relieves researchers

  • The Holocaust memorial in Berlin (Photo: Paul Weber)

Fears that historians would somehow be denied access to public records when researching the Holocaust because of new data privacy rules have now been resolved.

An agreement last week was reached between the EU institutions on a far-reaching regulation that promises a new set of data protection rules to help businesses thrive in a digital single market while ensuring people's right to privacy.

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

But the new regulation, to be transposed into national law in the first half of 2018, also set standards for granting researchers access to public and private records.

A spokesperson at the US-based World Jewish Restitution Organization told this website in an email that researchers were experiencing problems accessing historical Holocaust-related materials from certain archives because of legal concerns on the part of archivists around the issue of data protection.

"This issue had to be solved at EU level rather than at national level because researchers did not face problems to access Holocaust related documents prior to the General Data Protection Regulation," said the spokesperson.

Such privacy rules do not apply to the deceased, but problems may arise when researchers are unable to provide a date of death or a certificate.

"If there is no date of death, EU countries generally insist on a period of time that is calculated from the individual's birth. This period of time in EU countries tends to be 100 years or more, which means that records concerning persons born in 1915 or later may not be accessible if only their date or year of birth is known," he said.

Other issues may also arise when it comes to tracking down plunder of property and related provenance research.

Regulators behind the new bill have since inserted the word "Holocaust" in a recital on processing personal data for archiving purposes to dispel any ambiguity.

Robert Williams of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said the specific reference prevents the new bill from becoming an excuse to restrict access.

The recital already makes broad references to genocide and crimes against humanity.

It makes no specific reference to other atrocities, like the Armenian genocide in 1915 or the Srebrenica massacre in 1995.

Instead, it notes member states should be authorised to provide personal data to researchers when there is a general public interest value "for example with a view to providing specific information related to the political behaviour under former totalitarian state regimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, in particular the Holocaust, or war crimes."

German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who steered the bill through the European Parliament, said the Holocaust inclusion was a helpful but needless clarification.

"I don't think that this clarification is and was necessary, but it is a helpful one," he said.

He noted that the recital was needed to help explain the concept of historical research.

Meanwhile, regulators are hoping the broader bill will instil a sense of trust in people when companies process their personal data.

The idea is that people will have more confidence, for example, when making online purchases.

People will now have to be informed when their personal data is processed. Consent will have to be clear and affirmative for companies to proceed.

The European Commission views consent as the backbone of the regulation. EU commissioner for justice Vera Jourova said it was the most important element in the bill.

"We must do our best so that the data subject does not change into a data object, so people must be very well informed before the data is processed," she noted.

The new rules could see companies fined up to four percent of their global annual turnover.

Last week, 27 of the member states endorsed the regulation and one abstained.

"Interesting enough, the country that abstained on the regulation, was arguing that the text was too data industry friendly," said Luxembourg's justice minister Felix Braz.

According to one EU source, Austria has abstained.

Focus

EU agrees data protection regime, details to follow

Europeans will have the right to object to being targeted by online advertisers, to carry their data from one service to another, and to have personal data deleted if they want to.

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. VW owners to get diesel software update free until 2020
  2. Airbnb breaches EU consumer rules, Commission says
  3. EU sees no China free-trade talks
  4. Italy accepts migrant boat after help promises
  5. EU opens case on Siemens' Alstom buyout
  6. Trump: May found my Brexit advice 'too brutal'
  7. Italy will reject EU-Canada trade deal, says deputy PM
  8. Commission: Juncker suffered from sciatica attack at Nato

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

Latest News

  1. EU and China agree on words, not yet on action
  2. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  3. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  4. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK
  5. EU and China edge closer in Trump's 'America First' world
  6. How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism
  7. Stage set for Trump-Putin finale
  8. Trump scuppers trade deal with UK under May's Brexit

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