Saturday

24th Sep 2022

EU ministers back weaker data protection rules

  • Triologue talks on the data protection bill kick off on 24 June (Photo: Tom Raftery)

Most justice ministers in Luxembourg on Monday (15 June) backed a 200-page bill that will have far reaching implications for businesses and the personal details of people they use to turn a profit.

The agreement means the Council, representing member states, can start talks with MEPs on a data protection bill launched three years ago by the European Commission.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

But the ministerial text has not pleased everyone.

Austria rejected it over fears data protection standards would be lower than current rules.

“In Austria we have a tradition of very high protection for data,” said Austria’s justice minister Wolfgang Brandstetter.

Austria is opposed because of a controversial article 6.4 on purpose limitation.

Loopholes

AccessNow, a Brussels-based digital rights NGO, in a statement said companies would be allowed to “collect and repeatedly use citizens’ personal information without their knowledge” under article 6.4.

The NGO accused ministers of eviscerating the bill by “introducing so many loopholes it’s not even consistent with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

The European Consumer Organisation, Beuc, expressed similar concerns.

It said loopholes should be closed to make sure businesses do not bypass fundamental data protection principles.

The proposed regulation overhauls a two-decade old directive with a single set of binding rules across all member states.

The heavily lobbied proposal received some 4,000 amendments at the parliament before landing at the council last summer.

At its core is the so-called one-stop shop aimed at harmonising data protection decisions across the EU.

End of year deadline

Despite split views on key issues between the two legislating bodies, ministers and lead MEPs on the bill are keen to reach common ground by the year’s end.

Germany’s interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said he hopes “we will be able to conclude this by the end of the year”.

German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht, who steered the bill through parliament, said the text adopted by the ministers on Monday is workable.

“I really think it is possible to get an agreement there,” he told this website.

However some essential differences still need to be worked out.

Denmark wanted a much weaker directive but grudgingly backed the regulation anyway.

Ireland is afraid the new rules will create additional administrative costs for the big tech and internet firms like Facebook, Apple, LinkedIn, Twitter, eBay, and PayPal that it hosts.

Problem areas

Sanctions, consent, risk-based approach, data protection officers, how the one-stop-shop is governed, and how data is transferred to the United States are also problem areas that will need to be resolved.

The council wants weaker sanctions, opposes mandatory data protection officers, and backs “unambiguous” instead of “explicit” consent on personal data.

On transfers, the parliament had introduced a clause to create a legal basis on how firms pass on the data of EU citizens to American authorities.

The same is not included the council version.

“My impression is that in this area many member states wanted that in also but they just didn’t manage to agree on a wording,” said Albrecht.

Austria accused of undermining new EU data law

Most EU states have yet to pass the national laws needed to equip authorities with the resources to enforce the upcoming EU general data protection regulation. Austria, previously deemed a leader for high data standards, appears increasingly wary.

'No decision expected' for EU decision on unanimous decisions

Swedish minister for European affairs Hans Dahlgren told EUobserver no decision can be expected on majority vote next year. Mikuláš Bek, the Czech minister for European affairs, said enlargement and changes to the decision-making are politically interlinked.

'Cosmetic changes' not enough on EU funds, Hungary warned

Critics point out that Hungary will continue to receive substantial inflows of EU funds since the proposed suspension applies only to around 22 percent of total EU subsidies earmarked for Hungary in the bloc's current budget for 2021-2027.

Opinion

What von der Leyen's 'State of Union' didn't mention

Ursula von der Leyen barely noticed that European democracy is under attack not only from external threats, but from within. Two of the world's leading autocratic countries are EU member states.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us