Monday

27th Feb 2017

EU passes controversial data retention law

  • Telephone records will be stored for at least six months, the new law says (Photo: EUobserver)

EU justice and interior ministers have sealed a landmark data-retention law, forcing telephone operators and internet service providers to store data in the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

The data retention directive was approved by ministers in Brussels on Tuesday (21 February), putting an end to a heated debate in and outside EU institutions for over a year and a half.

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.

The directive aims at tracking down terrorists, paedophiles and criminal gangs, but civil liberties campaigners have argued it damages basic privacy rights and breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

According to the directive, member states will have to store citizens' phone call data for six to 24 months, but the deal does not stipulate a maximum time period, cooling anger among member states who want longer storage periods.

The data would only detail the caller and receiver's numbers, not the actual conversations themselves, while so-called failed calls - calls that do not get through - will not be covered.

EU countries have 18 months to implement the rules, which already have the backing of the European Parliament.

"This is a wonderful example of how co-operation between the council [member states], the commission and the parliament can work," Austrian justice minister Karin Gastinger, hosting the ministers' meeting, said.

Terror attacks trigerred action

The data retention directive was tabled after the Madrid bombings in March 2004 and then fast-tracked under the British EU presidency after the London underground attacks last July.

Britain, France and Sweden have stressed the need to retain data in order to trace terrorists using modern technology.

Swedish justice minister Thomas Bodstrom said on Tuesday he was satisfied with the deal, arguing that fast-moving changes in the telecom market made it important to force phone companies to comply.

Telephone call records are usually saved for a month for billing purposes, but ever more popular pre-paid subscription contracts have led some companies to ditch paperwork.

"In five years, the police would have been faced with a catastrophy, if this deal had not been clinched today," Mr Bodstrom said.

EU oversteps mark?

Ireland and Slovakia voted against the law, saying they regard national security as a matter for member states not the EU.

"This remains our position and we believe that provision for data retention should be made by way of a framework decision under the third pillar," an Irish official indicated.

The third pillar is a technical term relating to intergovernmental decisions made by unanimity, while so-called first pillar decisions are typically made in conjunction with the European Parliament by qualified majority.

"In the circumstances, and for the legal reason I have indicated, we would merely wish to formally record…the fact that Ireland cannot support the adoption of the proposed directive," he added.

Dublin insisted that Ireland retains its veto in justice matters, and is currently cosulting the Irish attorney general about how to proceed with an appeal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ministry of justice in Slovakia said Bratislava agreed with the content of the directive but also objected to placing it under the first pillar.

US could access EU data retention information

US authorities can get access to EU citizens' data on phone calls, sms' and emails, giving a recent EU data-retention law much wider-reaching consequences than first expected, reports Swedish daily Sydsvenskan.

Germany seeks to harden EU border checks

German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said internal EU border controls should be imposed on security as well as immigrations grounds, shifting their legal basis.

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. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations