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Mr Erkki Liikanen
Member of the European Commission, responsible for Enterprise and the Information Society
"Directive on processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector"
Plenary Session, European Parliament
Brussels, 29 May 2002
The new electronic communications regulatory framework has entered in to force a month ago, on 24 April. The proposed Electronic communications data protection Directive is the only element of that package still to be agreed between this House and the Council. Adequate rules on the protection of privacy on-line are just as essential for the sector as rules to ensure a competitive market.
Therefore, I would like to ask you all to join in the ongoing effort to try and reach an agreed solution on this Directive within the second reading to avoid any further delay.
The seven compromise amendments that have been tabled by the PPE and PSE, together with 3 amendments submitted by the Citizen's freedoms committee and 5 further amendments submitted by the PPE constitute a package of compromise texts that is acceptable both for the Council and for the Commission.
I would like to thank the rapporteur Mr. Marco Cappato, who has put a lot of time and energy into this file. May I also pay special credit to the Honourable members Mrs. Palacio and Mrs. Paciotti for their continuous efforts to try and find an overall package that would be acceptable for all institutions involved.
On all four main outstanding issues, sound and balanced solutions are now on the table. All sides have had to make concessions and nobody is perfectly happy with every element of the package, as is the nature of a good compromise.
On cookies amendments 25 and 26 align the relevant provisions with the general data protection directive.
On unsolicited e-commercial mail, the Council has accepted further concessions to accommodate that part of the EP not in favour of a harmonised policy.
Amendments 9, 18, 28 , 44 and 45 are acceptable for Council and Commission. The exception clause would apply to direct marketing by the same company of similar categories of products or services. One such category could for instance be books, CDs and DVDs, another category are household appliances. But this is really as far as we can go without ending up with unsatisfactory solutions for both citizens and business.
We need a clear, harmonised approach for the entire EU market that does not force customers to pay the bill for unwanted direct marketing by e-mail , SMS and other message services. This is the best boost for electronic messaging services and e-commerce in general.
On traffic data retention discussions have been particularly difficult. The Commission appreciates the strong feelings in this House regarding the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms. The Commission fully shares these feelings and, like the Parliament, is currently promoting the inclusion of the Charter on Fundamental Human Rights in the EU Treaty so that it will become legally binding and directly enforceable.
But as we have said from the start of these discussions, the Directive we are debating today is not a third pillar instrument. This imposes legal limitations on what we can usefully include in the provisions of the Directive, both with regard to any national measures for public security or crime fighting and with regard to safeguards for individual rights and freedoms.
As the Commission has emphasised in its recent submission to the Convention on the future of Europe, we think that the separations between the three pillars cause numerous difficulties and should therefore be abandoned. But as long as they exist, we are forced to respect them because the European Court of Justice would not uphold any third pillar elements included in a first pillar Directive. For similar reasons we cannot introduce a provision on the costs of law enforcement measures in this Directive as proposed in amendment 39. Nevertheless, I can assure Mrs. Cederschiöld that the Commission will actively pursue this matter with Member States.
The compromise amendments 46 and 47 jointly submitted by PPE and PSE, signify a very important improvement of the Council's common position on the topic of data retention. They strengthen considerably the human rights aspect of the relevant provisions and also refer to case law by the Strasbourg Court on the European Convention of Human Rights. The Commission fully supports these improvements and encourages the EP to do the same.
However, if the sentence on data retention is deleted from amendment 46, as proposed by the requested split vote, the whole compromise will unravel and this will surely lead to conciliation with an even more uncertain outcome. The Commission understands the concerns that have motivated the split vote request, but feels that the current text addresses these concerns sufficiently.
Finally, the issue of public subscriber directories remains to be solved. While less debated than the opt-in for unsolicited commercial e-mail, similar issues are at stake for the proposed harmonised opt-in regarding directories.
A non-harmonised solution as proposed in amendment 35 is not sustainable within the internal market.
In summary, an agreed overall solution between all institutions is within reach if the tomorrow EP accepts amendments 9, 13, 18, 25 to 26 included, 28, 37 to 38 included and amendments 44 to 50 included. The result will be a Directive with great added value for European citizens and for the development of the information society.