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European Commission


Brussels, 19 July 2013

Informal Justice Council in Vilnius

At the informal Justice Council in Vilnius today, Vice President Reding made the following remarks:

On data Protection

"Today's Council meeting sent a powerful signal to citizens. All EU institutions agree that we have to join forces in order to have a strong European data protection law for our continent.

Without the France-German motor, it cannot work.

It is good to see that the French and German ministers have reaffirmed, in a joint declaration, that we need a high level of data protection for European citizens, which strikes the right balance between freedom and security.

It is also good to see that they have both committed to quickly adopting the reform of Europe's data protection rules that the Commission put on the table in January 2012.

PRISM has been a wake-up call. The data protection reform is Europe's answer."

On Safe Harbour

"The Safe Harbour agreement may not be so safe after all.

It could be a loophole for data transfers because it allows data transfers from EU to US companies – although US data protection standards are lower than our European ones.

I have informed ministers that the Commission is working on a solid assessment of the Safe Harbour Agreement which we will present before the end of the year."


The European Commission proposed to reform the EU's data protection rules in January 2012. The reform, which now needs to be by the Member States in Council and by the European Parliament, contains several articles which would protect European citizens' data:

  • First, territoriality. Making sure that there are no legal loopholes. Non-European companies, when offering goods and services to European consumers, will have to apply the EU data protection law in full. European, rules should apply from the moment of collection to the moment of deletion of the data;

  • Second, enforcement. The new rules foresee tough sanctions (up to 2% of the annual worldwide turnover) to make sure that companies comply with EU law.

  • Third, legal clarity on data transfers: when third country authorities want to access the data of EU citizens outside their territory, they have to use a legal framework that involves judicial control. Asking the companies directly is illegal. This is public international law.

On Safe Harbour

The Safe Harbour agreement enables data to be transferred from the EU to the US. The Safe Harbour framework was developed by the US Department of Commerce, in consultation with the Commission, industry and non-governmental organisations to provide US organisations with a streamlined means of satisfying the Directive's "adequate protection" requirement.

The Commission is working on an assessment which it will present before the end of the year.

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