Yesterday evening EU public affairs practitioners were ready to face one of the longest votes that a parliamentary committee could experience. Food was brought into offices, colleagues had been warned not to bother people that would follow this marathon vote, clients were alerted well in advance about the length of the voting … and … things went differently.
The vote on the famous data protection regulation (that by now everybody knows is one of the most relevant pieces of legislation that the EU is adopting) went very fast: in around half an hour all compromise amendments (CAs) had been voted in favour by the LIBE Committee and the final report was adopted by 49 votes to 1. To be frank, with the EPP declaring its full support on the CAs during the day and knowing that all other parties were already backing up the compromises, there was little surprise in these results. The text adopted, still to be fully digested by organisations, confirms the line taken by the Commission and strengthens some provisions. For instance, sanctions: organisations that do not comply with the obligations laid down in the regulation can be fined up to 5% of the annual worldwide turnover (EC asked for 2%). I am sure you’ll agree with me that this is a huge percentage. Consent remains strong in the text: it has to be explicit and informed. The right to be forgotten has become “Right to erase”; the deletion of an individual’s personal data on the internet and the deletion request to third parties is also foreseen. Finally, thanks to the NSA episode, transfer of data to third countries can only occur under European law or an agreement based on European law. Without any concrete agreement there would be no data processing by telecommunication and internet companies allowed.
What’s next? The committee voted to enter into inter-institutional negotiations (so called “trialogue”). The European Council will discuss data protection this week on 24-25 October. We know that most member states are reluctant to commit to a deadline so it is unlikely that the legislation will be adopted by March 2014 unless the Council agrees on a clear direction.
More to follow then.