The European Parliament’s committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) held a discussion on Wednesday 20 March 2013 on the amendments submitted to the General Data Protection Regulation.
The discussion was held in the presence of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Peter Hustinx, and the chairman of the Article 29 Working Party, Jakob Kohnstamm.
Jan Albrecht MEP (Greens/EFA, Germany), rapporteur of the file, opened discussions by informing the Committee that the plenary vote has been postponed and will now take place on 29 May 2013. The plenary was originally scheduled for the end of April, but in light of the 2,783 amendments submitted, the Rapporteur decided that more time is needed to produce compromise amendments that take into account all the different positions and views. The revised timeline, Mr Albrecht noted, still leaves times for the Parliament to begin discussions with the Council before the summer, as planned.
Francoise Le Bail, Director General of DG Justice, presented the Commission’s view of the Parliament report and the progress of the legislative file, expressing its gratitude to the rapporteur for the work completed. She emphasised that a wide definition of data protection must be maintained and that strong data protection authorities (DPAs) and a system of fines and sanctions was necessary to ensure compliance.
Ms Le Bail also stated that the Commission is willing to work with the Parliament and the Council on the inclusion of flexibility for pseudonymous data. In line with the EPHA statement on GDPR and health research, she added that whilst requirements for consent might be lessened for pseudonymous data, the rights of data subjects must be strictly upheld, since pseudonymous data is still personal data.
The floor was then opened to each of the shadow rapporteurs, who summarised the positions of their various groups, mostly calling for transparent, universal and easily applicable data protection rules. The representative from the ECR group highlighted their call for a tiered approach to fines and for a move away from the notion of explicit consent as the only type of consent which exists, since others exist already in EU law. The GUE/NGL representative stated that the number of exemptions should be looked at, since many are not justified - a point later supported from the floor. She also added that the provisions of Article 82 on employment are not yet strong enough and should provide a set of minimum standards.
Next the Committee heard from the expert panel. Mr Hustinx, the EDPS, summarised the comments that the EDPS had sent to the Parliament in the previous week, following its analysis of the amendments offered. These supported the Commission’s conception of personal data and also call for a reduction in the number of exemptions included. The EDPS also noted the difficulty of demonstrating that anonymous data is indeed anonymous - this may have implications for the implementation of the regulation. Mr Kohnstamm from the Article 29 Working Party reiterated the importance of the legal instrument, stating that the use of a regulation is an important step forward in securing a one-stop-shop for data protection across the EU. He also spoke about the proposal, put forward by the Working Party, for the budgets of DPAs, setting a fixed base amount to be set aside for such work.
The chair then opened the floor to questions and a number of contributions were made. Concern was expressed about the powers given to the Commission in the original text, as well as the exclusion of the European institutions from the new rules. Following these comments, the representative from the Irish Presidency gave an update on the work being undertaken by the Presidency. It’s plans, as outlined on 10 January, have seen almost half of the technical reading completed already, putting it on track to have agreement within the Council on most of the text by the end of the Presidency mandate. He also noted that there have been calls from some ministers and Commission officials for more ambition on the part of the Presidency - the representative assured the Committee that they are committed to moving ahead as quickly and comprehensibly as possible.
Finally, Jan Albrecht summarised the afternoon’s discussion, urging MEPs to follow the aims that they identified and outlined in the 2011 Resolution. He also emphasised his commitment to finalising the legislation by the end of the current Parliament’s mandate.
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