Brussels, 27 November 2013
European Commission calls on the U.S. to restore trust in EU-U.S. data flows
Today the European Commission has set out the actions that need to be taken to restore trust in data flows between the EU and the U.S., following deep concerns about revelations of large-scale U.S. intelligence collection programmes have had a negative impact on the transatlantic relationship. The Commission's response today takes the form of (1) a strategy paper (a Communication) on transatlantic data flows setting out the challenges and risks following the revelations of U.S. intelligence collection programmes, as well as the steps that need to be taken to address these concerns; (2) an analysis of the functioning of 'Safe Harbour' which regulates data transfers for commercial purposes between the EU and U.S.; and (3) a report on the findings of the EU-US Working Group (see MEMO/13/1059) on Data Protection which was set up in July 2013. In addition, the European Commission is also presenting its review of the existing agreements on Passenger Name Records (PNR) (see MEMO/13/1054) and the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) regulating data exchanges in these sectors for law enforcement purposes (see MEMO/13/1060).
"Massive spying on our citizens, companies and leaders is unacceptable. Citizens on both sides of the Atlantic need to be reassured that their data is protected and companies need to know existing agreements are respected and enforced. Today, the European Commission is setting out actions that would help to restore trust and strengthen data protection in transatlantic relations," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "There is now a window of opportunity to rebuild trust which we expect our American partners to use, notably by working with determination towards a swift conclusion of the negotiations on an EU-U.S. data protection 'umbrella' agreement. Such an agreement has to give European citizens concrete and enforceable rights, notably the right to judicial redress in the U.S. whenever their personal data are being processed in the U.S."
''European citizens' trust has been shaken by the Snowden case, and serious concerns still remain following the allegations of widespread access by U.S. intelligence agencies to personal data. Today, we put forward a clear agenda for how the U.S. can work with the EU to rebuild trust, and reassure EU citizens that their data will be protected. Everyone from Internet users to authorities on both sides of the Atlantic stand to gain from cooperation, based on strong legal safeguards and trust that these safeguards will be respected" said Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs.
Recent revelations about U.S. intelligence collection programmes have negatively affected the trust on which this cooperation is based. In order to maintain the continuity of data flows between the EU and U.S., a high level of data protection needs to be ensured. The Commission today calls for action in six areas:
The Commission also makes clear that standards of data protection will not be part of the on-going negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The Commission's response today builds on the findings of the EU-U.S. working group on data protection, the Commission's review of existing agreements for the exchange of data, and a continued dialogue at political level between the EU and U.S., notably the EU-U.S. justice and home affairs ministerial meetings in June (see SPEECH/13/536) and November (MEMO/13/1003). Following last week's Ministerial in Washington where the EU was represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, the EU and the U.S. issued a joint statement (MEMO/13/1010), reaffirming the willingness of both sides to work towards rebuilding trust, including on data protection issues, and reinforcing cooperation on justice and home affairs issues.
The EU is currently strengthening its own rules on data protection. The European Commission's proposals (IP/12/46 and IP/13/57) were most recently backed by the European Parliament. The vote, which took place on 21 October 2013, gave the European Parliament a mandate for negotiations with the second chamber of the EU legislature, the Council of the European Union. European heads of state and government also underlined the importance of a “timely” adoption of the new data protection legislation at a summit on 24 and 25 October 2013. The Commission would like to conclude the negotiations by spring 2014.
In addition, the EU and the U.S. are currently negotiating a framework agreement on data protection in the field of police and judicial cooperation (“umbrella agreement”). Negotiations were launched on 28 March 2011 and, after more than 15 negotiating rounds, are still on-going.
Exchange of personal data between the EU and the US for the purposes of law enforcement, including the prevention and combating of terrorism and other forms of serious crime, is governed by a number of agreements at EU level. These are the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement , the Agreement on the use and transfer of Passenger Name Records (PNR) , the Agreement on the processing and transfer of Financial Messaging Data for the purpose of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP), and the Agreement between Europol and the US. These Agreements respond to important security challenges and meet the common security interests of the EU and U.S., whilst guaranteeing the protection of personal data.
Exchange of personal data between the EU and the U.S. for commercial purposes are addressed by the Safe Harbour Decision which provides a legal basis for transfers of personal data from the EU to companies in the U.S. which adhere to the Safe Harbour Principles.
For more information:
Communication on rebuilding trust in EU-US data flows:
Report on the findings of the EU-US Working Group:
Analysis of the functioning of 'Safe Harbour'
Mid-term report on the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP)
Joint review of the U.S. Passenger Name Record (PNR) Agreement
Press pack: the EU's data protection reform:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Home page of Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs:
Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU
Follow the Justice Directorate-General on Twitter: @EU_Justice