Saturday

4th Jul 2020

Ireland to contest data retention law at EU Court

Ireland is set to challenge a newly adopted EU directive on data retention at the European Court of Justice, arguing that the issue falls outside EU competence.

With 387 votes in favour and 204 against, MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday (14 December) adopted a controversial commission proposal on data retention, giving national police authorities far-reaching rights on monitoring telephone and data traffic.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Minutes after the vote, a spokesperson from the Irish ministry of justice said that justice minister Michael McDowell had the intention of testing its judicial bearing, claiming it should not fall under the EU's so-called first pillar.

First pillar decisions are made by majority voting between member state governments, with a necessary consent by a majority of the European Parliament, but security-related justice decisions are usually made under the so-called third pillar, where unanimous consent by member states is necessary and parliament can only issue an opinion.

Mr McDowell has insisted that Ireland retain its veto in justice matters, and will consult the Irish attorney general about how to proceed with an appeal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ministry of justice in Slovakia, one of three countries who voted against the proposal in the council earlier this month, said that Slovakia agreed with the content of the directive, but also objected to placing it under the first pillar.

By contrast, an official of the Swedish ministry of justice, one of the member states keenest on introducing a data retention law, indicated that if the decision had not been placed in the first pillar it would instead have been taken before the ECJ by the commission and the council.

Arguments over pillars

The Irish and Slovak position on Wednesday received unexpected support from within the parliament - normally calling for more, not less, influence in EU decision-making - with MEPs from the green group saying the decision had been a "false" first pillar decision in any case.

"The council - member state ministers - have acted as if it was a first pillar decision, concluding a back-door deal with the two major groups in parliament that these would not post amendments to the council decision", Green MEP Carl Schlyter told EUobserver.

"Citizens have a right to know who is in charge of legislation, and these matters should not be tossed around between pillars", he said, adding he welcomed Ireland's initiative and a legal review of the legislation at the ECJ.

Liberal German MEP Alexander Alvaro argued along the same lines.

"By voting as we [the Parliament] did today we create a precedent where Council need only say 'jump!' and Parliament cries 'how high?'", he said.

Mr Alvaro added he will look into the possibility of taking the directive before the German High Court, suspecting that the court would "question very strongly if this is in line with its constitution."

MEPs cannot go to court

Several MEPs have argued that the data retention directive is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, which sets out to protect privacy and states that data should not be retained for "more than necessary."

The MEP Eva-Britt Svensson from the GUE / Nordic Left group indicated that a possible way to go would be to take the matter before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

But a spokesperson for the France-based Council of Europe, the 46 member state political watchdog which guards the European Convention on Human Rights, reminded MEPs that only victims who suffer the consequences of a decision can take a case to the council, and not political groups or organisations who are against a political decision.

EUobserver under attack in wider battle for EU free press

If EU citizens want to know the truth, then journalists need protection from malicious litigation, as EUobserver joined the list of targets, over an article about the late Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

MEP in police protection after Czech PM calls him 'traitor'

Three MEPs received numerous death threats in the Czech Republic for asking questions about how EU funds are being spent. One of them had his entire family under police protection after people threatened to murder his four children.

News in Brief

  1. EU grants Remdesivir conditional authorisation
  2. French prime minister and government resign
  3. France lied on Nato naval clash, Turkey claims
  4. EU highlights abuses in recent Russia vote
  5. Belgium bids to host EU mask stockpile
  6. France shamed on refugees by European court
  7. French and Dutch police take down criminal phone network
  8. EU launches infringement case on Covid-19 cancelled trips

Opinion

EU silence on sickening scenes at Croatian border

If the European Commission is seriously committed to its fundamental values, it is time to put words into practice and condemns unlawful returns and violence at its external borders and demands perpetrators of such illegal acts are held to account.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us