I would like to congratulate the Latvian Presidency for hosting a very successful Ministerial meeting, which has reaffirmed the strong cooperation between the European Union and the United States of America on Justice and Home Affairs.
I was particularly pleased to meet the new US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and to welcome her on her first official visit to Europe since taking office.
[We are also holding a bilateral meeting to discuss our shared priorities for the years to come.]
The European Union and the United States cooperate closely, based on our shared values, common challenges and the desire to find joint responses which strengthen the rights and security of our citizens.
Today, we have adopted a joint statement in which we agree on concrete points of action.
The European Commission has recently adopted the European Agenda on Security. It stresses the need for a criminal justice approach to fighting organised crime and terrorism covering investigation and prosecution, recruitment, training, and financing.
The Agenda calls for reinforced criminal justice cooperation, both inside the EU and with our close partners, such as the United States.
And this cooperation must take place in full respect of fundamental rights and values, including the protection of personal data. We therefore also discussed the need for effective data protection rules.
On data protection issues, we are making solid progress.We reaffirmed our commitment to swiftly finalise the negotiations on both the 'Umbrella Agreement' on data protection standards for law enforcement cooperation, and on the review of the Safe Harbour framework for commercial data exchanges.
On the Umbrella Agreement, we have made very important progress. In particular, I greatly appreciate the introduction of the Judicial Redress Bill in the US Congress in March, which – once adopted – will grant enforceable privacy rights for Europeans.
This has been a long-standing demand of the European Union and we greatly appreciate the US Administration's support for this measure.
Adoption of the Judicial Redress Bill will allow for the conclusion of the umbrella agreement, which ensures a high level of data protection and greater legal certainty for our law enforcement data exchanges.
I remain committed to finalise the text of the agreement and initial it as soon as possible. We are not yet fully there – but I can tell you – we are not far. We would then conclude it once the Judicial Redress Bill has become law.
On Safe Harbour, with the Department of Commerce, we have achieved solid commitments on the commercial aspects. However, work still needs to continue as far as national security exemptions are concerned. Discussions will continue, with the aim of achieving a robust revision of the Safe Harbour framework in the near future.
We also discussed the Mutual legal assistance agreement and its review. We agree that cooperation already works well. This important tool allows us to be able to prosecute and convict perpetrators of serious crime. We will carry out a thorough review of the agreement this year to see if its practical functioning can be further improved. We will have a seminar in the autumn with Eurojust and be sure to involve the practitioners in this reviewing process.
Regarding money laundering and the Financial Action Task Force, I am happy that the EU and US will work together to make this a stronger tool in the fight against financial crime. Following our recently adopted rules on Anti-money laundering, we will be able to cut financial flows to criminals and terrorists.
Finally, I would like to mention our work on victims' rights and the fight against violence against women. I see this as a very important priority for the European Union. And these are issues where the United States has very valuable experience. Today, I have suggested to Attorney General Lynch that we explore ideas on how to exchange best practices in this area, to the benefit of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.