Brussels, October 4 2005
Faced with organised crime and terrorism which are increasingly operating across borders, the European Commission has today presented new proposals to reinforce the protection of personal data and allow for a more effective exchange of information between national law enforcement agencies. Today’s proposal for a framework decision on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters - together with a recent proposal on the retention of data by communication providers -reflect the Commission’s overall approach of strengthening international co-operation to ensure security and protection for citizens while at the same time safeguarding fundamental freedoms, particularly the right to privacy and data protection.
Vice-President Frattini, Commissioner responsible for freedom, security and justice, stressed the importance of the Commission’s twofold approach: “It is obvious that organised crime and terrorism are internationally operating and that they can only be effectively tackled by strong police and judicial cooperation between EU Member States, and, increasingly, between the EU and third countries. Such cooperation necessarily implies the exchange of personal data, indeed such exchange often proves vital in criminal investigations. However as this exchange of data has an impact on the personal data of many citizens it is necessary to ensure that these data are processed thoroughly and carefully. Fundamental principles regarding data quality and the legitimacy of data processing have to be respected.”
The Commission reiterates that police services and judicial authorities of the Member States in their cooperation in criminal matters have to be supported by decisive action at EU level. At the same time, the Commission is aware of the increasing quantity of the information exchanged and of new technologies and channels that are used in order to make such exchange quicker and more effective. It is therefore important to have adequate rights of the data subject. Strict rules on confidentiality and security of processing, judicial remedies, liability as well as on sanctions are important elements of the proposed framework decision. Strong, efficient but also cooperative supervisory authorities are equally needed.
Furthermore, at EU level the knowledge and expertise of the supervisory bodies should be bundled in a working party giving advice to the Commission and the Member States. In the Proposal particular attention has been paid to the principle that personal data are only transferred to those third countries and international bodies that ensure an adequate level of data protection. The proposed Framework Decision provides for a mechanism aiming at EU wide compliance with this principle. Derogations are only possible in very exceptional cases, notably in order to prevent imminent serious danger threatening public security or specific persons.
Both the services responsible for Justice and Home Affairs as well as the Data Protection Supervisors of the Member States have been thoroughly consulted prior to the adoption of this proposal and their advice has been taken into account to the widest possible extent.