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Brussels, 13 June 2013
EU-U.S. Justice Ministerial meeting: 13 -14 June in Dublin
The European Union and the United States will meet in Dublin on 13-14 June to discuss issues of common interest in the field of justice and home affairs. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding will represent the European Commission, while the Irish Minister of Justice, Alan Shatter will attend on behalf of the EU Presidency, the incoming Lithuanian Presidency will also be represented. The United States will be represented by Attorney General Eric Holder.
Main Justice agenda items:
1. Data protection
On 3 December 2010, the Council adopted the Commission’s negotiating directives for a personal data protection agreement between the European Union and the United States when cooperating to fight terrorism or crime. The aim is to ensure a high level of protection of personal information such as passenger data or financial information that is transferred as part of transatlantic cooperation in criminal matters. Negotiations on an agreement between the EU and U.S. were launched on 28 March 2011 (see MEMO/11/203) and are on-going. The last negotiation round took place in April 2013 when the U.S. confirmed that it shares the EU's goal of a high level of protection of personal data (see MEMO/13/304).
What is expected at this meeting? The EU and U.S. will assess progress made in the negotiations and further outstanding issues. Vice-President Reding is also seeking clarifications as to whether and how United States authorities are accessing and processing the data of European Union citizens using major U.S. online service providers.
Commission position: The European Commission remains concerned by the question of EU citizens' personal data being accessed and processed by United States authorities using major U.S. online service providers. The European Commission seeks clarifications on this issue. The Commission maintains that if U.S. law enforcement authorities want to access data of EU citizens on servers of U.S. companies, this should happen though formal channels, notably through the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement which is in force since 2010. Access through other means should be excluded unless in clearly defined, exceptional and judicially reviewable situations.
Against this backdrop, the Commission considers that the EU-U.S. data protection agreement, on which negotiations began in 2011, should guarantee a high level of protection for citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. The Commission will reiterate again that the agreement should establish enforceable rights for individuals whose data are being exchanged across the Atlantic for law enforcement purposes and provide for equal treatment between EU and U.S. persons, including access to judicial redress in case these rights are violated.
Ahead of the EU-U.S. Ministerial Meeting, Vice-President Viviane Reding said: "The respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law are the foundations of the EU-U.S. relationship. This common understanding has been, and must remain, the basis of cooperation between us in the area of Justice. Trust that the rule of law will be respected is also essential to the stability and growth of the digital economy, including transatlantic business. This is of paramount importance for individuals and companies alike. "
Background: The protection of personal data is set out in Article 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Lisbon Treaty (Article 16, Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) empowers the EU to adopt rules on the protection of personal data processed by EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, and by the Member States when carrying out activities that fall within the scope of EU law.
The Commission demonstrated its commitment to strengthening the fundamental right to the protection of personal data by proposing a major reform of the EU's current data protection rules, which date back to 1995 (see IP/12/46, IP/13/57). These proposals are currently being negotiated by the co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
In addition, on 26 May 2010 the Commission adopted a draft negotiation mandate (IP/10/609) for an EU-U.S. data protection agreement in the field of police and judicial cooperation and negotiations were launched on 28 March 2011.This followed calls by the European Parliament for such an agreement ensuring adequate protection of civil liberties and personal data protection (see resolution of 26 March 2009.
2. Rights of victims of crime
What is expected at this meeting? The rights of victims of crime are an important part of the political agenda of both the EU and the U.S. With the victims package the EU put in place a comprehensive legislative framework for the protection of victims of crime (IP/12/1200 and IP/13/510). The U.S., in turn, has already a thirty year tradition of statutory and constitutional rights (at both Federal and State level) to guarantee the rights of victims. The aim is thus to bring the two approaches together and establish transatlantic cooperation to reinforce victims' rights.
Commission position: With the recent adoption of the EU Victims' Rights package the discussion on the rights of victims of crime could not be more timely. The Commission will seek better ways for cooperation across the Atlantic on both policy-making and on practical solutions to individual cross-border cases. People in Europe and in the United States fall victim to crime for the same reasons and research shows that the same patterns of victimisation can be observed. It therefore does make sense to learn from each other and address the rights of victims in a coherent way to ensure that all citizens are treated appropriately and without discrimination should they become victims of crime.
Background: The European Commission estimates that in the EU more than 75 million people – at least 15% of the EU population – are victims of serious crime every year. A further 200 million people – the immediate family of victims – also suffer the consequences of those crimes. To help these citizens, the EU adopted a directive that sets out minimum rights for victims, wherever they are in the EU, ensuring that victims are treated with respect, they get information on their rights and their case in a way they understand and that victim support exists in every Member State (IP/12/1200). Another EU law will ensure that victims of domestic violence do not loose the protection afforded in their home country if they want to travel abroad in the EU (IP/13/510).
3. Judicial cooperation in criminal matters
The EU and U.S. concluded two agreements to fight crime through judicial cooperation, which entered into force in 2010: one dealing with mutual legal assistance and the other dealing with extradition.
What is expected at this meeting? The EU and the U.S. will discuss the implementation of these agreements and the further development of judicial co-operation in criminal matters on both sides of the Atlantic.
Commission position: The mutual legal assistance agreements have been in force for over three years so it will be a good opportunity to take stock of their implementation. The Commission would like to further develop this, notably by developing cooperation among practitioners in the area of gathering cyber-evidence and through the establishment of Joint Investigative Teams. The European Commission will also emphasise that these agreements are useful tools and should be the only channel used for judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
Background: The agreements on Extradition and on Mutual Legal Assistance between the European Union and the United States entered into force on 1 February 2010.
4. Judicial co-operation in civil matters
The Judgments Project aims to establish a multilateral convention on jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgements. The lack of such a system creates legal uncertainty which is an obvious deterrent to international, and in particular transatlantic, trade and commerce.
What is expected at this meeting? The EU and the U.S. will discuss how to bring the negotiations on a Judgments Convention forward.
Commission position: The Commission will underline to the U.S. the necessity to cover both the area of recognition and enforcement as well as the area of jurisdiction. The scope of the future convention should be broad to boost trade and commerce.
Background: The Judgments Project aims at establishing a worldwide system for the recognition and enforcement of judgments. The project is set up under the auspices of the Hague Conference on private international law.
At the Hague Conference in 2012 it was decided to set up two groups. A working group is focusing on matters of recognition and enforcement of judgments. A separate expert group is exploring the feasibility to include matters of jurisdiction of the courts in the negotiations.