Where is Europe’s proposed Data Protection Reform going?

The EU Commission’s Proposal for an EU Data Protection Regulation  has not made   any formal progress since March of last year.   At that point the EU Parliament essentially agreed to support the Commission’s Proposal in large part. The European elections were in May of that year and a new EU Commission was appointed in the Autumn. At of now the ball remains very firmly in the court of the EU Council, which is made up of the representatives of the EU’s Member States, under the Latvian Presidency. The technical work on the EU Council’s version of the proposed regulation is being undertaken by the Working Party of on Information Exchange and Data Protection (DAPIX). This is meeting on a weekly basis at the moment, as Latvia endeavors to deliver a partially agreed Council position before its Presidency concludes at the end of June. The   key date here is the 15th and 16th of June, when the EU’s Justice Ministers will next meet.   Latvia will be hoping to reach partial agreement at that meeting, an outcome which Ireland’s Data Protection Minister hopes will be achieved.

If the partial agreement can be obtained then the “Trialogue” between the EU Commission, Parliament and Council can commence. The Trialogue is an informal process under which the various bodies endeavour to reconcile their differences. How long the Trialogue will take is unclear. But once it is completed and the Regulation is enacted it will be a further two years before the Regulation comes into effect.

Whilst the political environment is changing, change is also to be found in the environment to which the data protection regulation will be applied. Europe is still absorbing the Snowden revelations, but it is also starting to realise just how far it is falling behind the USA in areas such as information technology. The EU Commission is progressing its competition investigation of Google. And is announcing its Digital Single Market Strategy on 6th May. The position of the Commission on the reform of the EU’s Data Protection Law was set out at the end of April: “the data protection reform will bring significant economic benefits, and will help stimulate economic growth in the Digital Single Market by cutting costs and red tape

Almost three-and-a-half years after the EU Commission first prosed a General Data Protection Regulation the end of the legislative process has not yet begun, however if the EU Council can reach partial agreement in June we will have at least reached the end of the beginning.

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