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Brussels, 7 March 2013
Justice Council 8 March 2013
Main agenda items:
1. EU Data Protection Reform
The European Commission proposed a reform of the EU's data protection rules on 25 January 2012 to make them fit for the 21st century (see IP/12/46 and IP/13/57). 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 Council? The EU 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 will present a report on the progress made. Discussions will focus on two main points:
First, how to ensure the right balance between data protection and obligations for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Ministers will discuss how to strengthen the risk-based approach already foreseen in the Commission's proposal, meaning that obligations have to be tailored to the data processing risk. One of the questions to be discussed is for example if data protection officers (DPOs) should be optional or mandatory. Another question linked to the risk-based approach is whether the notion of pseudonymous data should be introduced into the Regulation and how to encourage companies to resort to the use pseudonymous data.
Second, how to fine-tune the flexibility for the public sector already foreseen in the Data Protection Regulation. In the digital age where public authorities are using private cloud services to process data it is increasingly difficult to draw a clear demarcation line between private and public data processing. Nevertheless, specific rules for the public sector are necessary in some cases, for example a land registry which should be public.
Commission position: The European Commission welcomes the Irish Presidency’s strong commitment to the EU data protection reform. Thanks to the Presidency's considerable efforts the first reading of the Data Protection Regulation in the Council was completed at the end of January 2013. The Commission strongly supports maintaining the momentum that has been generated on the data protection package – both the regulation and the directive – to reach a political agreement by the end of the Irish Presidency. This would enable negotiations with the European Parliament to progress swiftly.
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 IMCO, ITRE (MEMO/13/124) and EMPL Committees have adopted their opinions and the JURI Committee is scheduled to vote on its opinion during March. The LIBE Committee is then then expected to vote on its own report in April.
2. Protecting the euro through criminal law
On 5 February 2013, the Commission proposed to strengthen protection of the euro and other currencies against counterfeiting through criminal law measures (IP/13/88 and MEMO/13/63). These include introducing minimum penalties, including imprisonment, for the most serious counterfeiting offences and strengthening cross-border investigations. The proposal will also enable the analysis of seized forgeries during judicial proceedings in order to detect further counterfeit euros in circulation.
What is expected at this Council? The Commission will present its proposal and the Council will hold a first exchange of views.
Commission position: The euro is the world’s second most important currency and the Commission will take all necessary steps to stop it from being targeted by criminals. Counterfeiting of currency by organised criminals undermines public confidence and trust in the currency and impacts heavily on governments, business and individuals alike.
Background: The euro and other currencies continue to be targeted by organised crime groups active in money forgery. Since its introduction in 2002, counterfeiting of the euro has led to financial damage amounting to at least € 500 million. This is illustrated by the seizure of large amounts of counterfeit euro notes and coins and the continuous dismantling of illegal print-shops and mints each year within and outside the European Union. These developments show that the current measures against counterfeiting are insufficient and, therefore, that an improved protection of the euro is needed at European level. 280,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the second semester of 2012. Two weeks ago the Portuguese Judiciary Police announced the dismantling an illegal counterfeit euro print shop seizing 30,000 euro as well as, in another operation, the world’s largest seizure of counterfeit euros. This resulted in the confiscation of a total of 380,200 euro in fake 200-euro notes of exceptional quality.
3. European Protection Order in civil matters
On 18 May 2011, the European Commission proposed a package of measures to ensure a minimum level of rights, support and protection for victims across the EU, no matter where they come from or live (IP/11/585). This included a proposal for a Regulation on mutual recognition of civil law protection measures. It will ensure that victims of violence (such as domestic violence) can still rely on restraint or protection orders issued against the perpetrator if they travel or move to another EU country and will complement the protection order in criminal matters.
What is expected at this Council? The Council is expected to confirm the deal on the Commission's proposal as negotiated with the European Parliament at a trilogue meeting on 19 February 2013 (MEMO/13/119).
Commission position: The Commission is grateful to the Irish Presidency, its predecessors and the European Parliament rapporteurs for their determination in reaching a swift political agreement. The Commission supports a speedy completion of the agreement to enable final adoption of the Regulation by the European Parliament before the end of the Irish Presidency so that Member State can move to implementing the rules.
Background: Protecting victims, wherever they find themselves in the EU, is crucial. Exercising one's freedom of movement should not result in a loss of that protection. At the moment, a protection order granted in one EU country does not offer protection in another, meaning that potential victims of violence can lose their judicial protection by crossing EU borders. The European Protection Order in civil matters is part of a package of measures to improve victims’ rights. The Directive on victims’ rights has already been adopted and published in the Official Journal (IP/12/1200).
4. Lunch Debate on contribution of efficient judicial systems to economic growth
The quality and efficiency of judicial systems are key goals of public policy at EU as well as at national level. They are in particular an important priority in the European Semester – the EU’s annual cycle of economic policy coordination. Efficient justice systems generate citizens' and investors' trust.
What is expected at this Council? The lunch debate is an opportunity to make Justice Ministers better aware of the Annual Growth Survey process and to enable an exchange of views on the important contribution of effective national justice systems to the overall success of the national and EU growth strategies.
Commission position: Effective national justice systems are important for the success of national and EU growth strategies. The European Commission is developing an EU Justice Scoreboard to contribute to this process.
Background: In order to provide a solid and systematic basis for the country specific analysis of the European Semester 2013, the Commission plans to adopt the first EU Justice Scoreboard by the end of March. The Commission will issue its 2013 Annual Growth Survey Country-Specific Recommendations in May, in time for these to be endorsed by the June European Council. This first exercise proposes a systematic analysis in all EU Member States of the effectiveness of judicial systems in contributing to the ease of doing business.