It is 'high time' for data protection rules

Europe's citizens and businesses need new data protection rules by the end of the year, writes Jan Albrecht.

By Jan Albrecht

07 Dec 2015

When European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented his programme in 2014, his number one priority was the digital single market for Europe, building on a rapid adoption of the EU data protection rules latest by the end of the year 2015. 

Also the European Council has repeatedly formulated this aim in its conclusions since 2013. Now, as we approach December 2015, the negotiations on the data protection package are indeed close to the finishing line. 

The last open differences between Commission, Parliament and Council should be overcome until the trilogue meeting on 15 December, so that a compromise text can be presented before the Christmas break. 


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But of course, this depends on the political will to deliver a result after almost five years of negotiations. It is high time for this and the envisaged law - this is clear already now - would be an important huge step forward for consumers and companies in the European Union.

In 2010, the European Commission started a consultation process to repeal the 1995 data protection directive, which was agreed right before the start of the internet age and regulated that all EU member states should foresee a high level of data protection. 

In fact, the reality in today's digital market is a massive fragmentation of the legal framework, as well as an incoherent enforcement of these 28 different rules throughout the European Union. 

To overcome this and create a legally certain level playing field for companies, as well as regain the trust of consumers and citizens in the effective protection of their fundamental right to data protection, the European Parliament in 2011 called for a unified legal framework on the protection of personal data with strong and renewed individual rights starting from the level of the 1995 directive.

On this basis, the Commission in January 2012 presented the data protection package, consisting of a general regulation and a specific directive for the area of police and justice authorities' law enforcement.

With my report being voted by over 95 per cent of yes-votes in the European Parliament's first reading in spring 2014, and the Council almost unanimously adopting its general approach in spring 2015, a huge step towards a single EU data protection law has been made. 

Our very reasonable compromise, based on the existing data protection rules from 1995, nevertheless foresees a number of innovative solutions for balancing the interests and fundamental rights of consumers with the needs of businesses and new technologies.

This way, the data protection regulation will create trust in a European digital market and open new opportunities for European IT businesses in global competition. It is now up to us, as politicians, to deliver a result and make the unified level playing field a reality. 

A compromise between Parliament, Council and Commission is not only needed urgently for businesses and consumers in the digitalised markets of today - it is also a crucial sign of the ability of EU institutions to provide up-to-date solutions and frameworks in more and more complex global and technological environments.

 

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