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European Commission


Brussels, 16 January 2013

Informal Justice Council: 18 January 2013

European Union Justice ministers will meet in Dublin on 18 January 2013. The Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner.

Main agenda items:

  • Reform of EU data protection rules

  • Cross-border insolvency law

  • Lunch debate on countering hate crime and intolerance

1. Data protection reform

The European Commission proposed a reform of the EU's data protection rules on 25 January 2012 (see IP/12/46 and MEMO/12/41). The package contains a Regulation setting out a general EU framework for data protection and a Directive on protecting personal data processed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences and related judicial activities.

What is expected at this Informal Council? Data protection reform is a priority for the Irish Presidency, which has set ambitious goals for its six-month stewardship of the Council. The Presidency has identified three issues for discussion at this Informal Council, namely: the so-called "household exemption" (to what extent data protection rules apply to individuals processing data for exclusively personal activities); the "right to be forgotten" and the exemptions from it; and administrative sanctions to be imposed by data protection authorities for breaches of data protection law.

Commission position: The Commission welcomes the Presidency’s strong commitment to achieving progress and the discussion on these three very important issues. The Commission would like to have a clear orientation from ministers on these issues so as to achieve swift and balanced solutions.

Background: The current patchwork of 27 different and often contradictory data protection rules stands in the way of European businesses wanting to operate cross-border. The Commission's proposal for modernised and uniform data protection rules will remove barriers to market entry and lead to savings of about €2.3 billion per year.

Ministers have already held fruitful discussions on the Commission proposals under the Cypriot Presidency, in particular on the issues of administrative burdens, delegated and implementing acts and flexibility for the public sector (see MEMO/12/946 and SPEECH/12/764).

The European Parliament is also making good progress in its work on the two draft proposals. On 10 January, the Parliament rapporteurs presented their draft reports (MEMO/13/4). The draft reports will now be discussed in the Parliament’s relevant committees, before a plenary vote expected around April.

2. Cross-border insolvency law

Businesses are essential to creating prosperity and jobs, but setting one up – and keeping it going – is tough, especially in today’s economic climate. The Commission, on 12 December 2012, therefore proposed to modernise the current EU rules on cross border insolvency (see IP/12/1354 and SPEECH/12/945). Benefitting from ten years of experience, the new rules will shift focus away from liquidation and develop a new approach to helping businesses overcome financial difficulties, all the while protecting creditors' right to get their money back.

What is expected at this Council? The Irish Presidency considers cross-border insolvency law to be a key area in justice policy which can contribute to supporting economic recovery and stimulating growth. The Presidency aims to launch discussions on the proposal amending the cross-border Insolvency Regulation as well as the debate on national laws on insolvency on the basis of our Communication.

Commission position: The Informal Council will be the first occasion for the Commission to seek ministers’ initial reactions and prepare the ground for follow-up discussions at working group level. The Commission welcomes the commitment shown by the Irish Presidency on this issue and looks forward to swift progress.

Background: Insolvencies are a fact of life in a dynamic, modern economy. Around half of enterprises survive less than five years, and around 200 000 firms go bankrupt in the EU each year. This means that some 600 companies in Europe go bust every day. A quarter of these bankruptcies have a cross-border element. But evidence suggests that failed entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes and are generally more successful the second time around. Up to 18% of all entrepreneurs who go on to be successful have failed in their first venture. It is therefore essential to have modern laws and efficient procedures in place to help businesses, which have sufficient economic substance, overcome financial difficulties and to get a "second chance".

3. Countering hate crime and intolerance

The EU Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia is designed to fight racist and xenophobic crimes across the EU. Member States were obliged to transpose it into their national laws by 28 November 2010. The EU has also adopted a Directive on the rights of victims of crime, which requires Member States to take special account of vulnerable victims, such as those subjected to hate crimes (IP/12/1200).

What is expected at this Council? The Irish Presidency has proposed a lunch discussion with ministers on “Protecting citizens' fundamental rights: action to counter hate crime and intolerance, including racism and anti-Semitism,” at the initiative of the Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Commission position: The Commission welcomes the Presidency’s initiative and remains committed to fighting racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism within the limits of its powers under the Treaties. It is crucial that all Member States correctly transpose and effectively enforce the Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia.

Background: The EU Fundamental Rights Agency published two reports in November 2012 on victims of hate crimes which show that hate crimes are a daily problem across the EU but that many of these crimes remain unreported, unprosecuted and unpunished.

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