Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions (456)

Peter Mathews


456. Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update in respect of recent amendments proposed by the European Council, regarding data protection regulation, during the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30277/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Achieving progress on the European Commission's proposals to update the Union's data protection standards has been a priority of the Irish Presidency and I am, therefore, pleased to say that substantial progress has been achieved on key aspects of the reform package. High data protection standards are essential in order to build the required levels of citizen trust and confidence in the digital economy and enable us to realise the full potential of this dynamic sector in terms of innovation, growth and new jobs. For this reason, the Union's data protection standards must keep pace with emerging technologies and new business models.

From the outset, the Commission's proposals for reform have been accorded priority in discussions at both ministerial and expert levels. At the Informal Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in January, I tabled a discussion paper on key aspects of the proposed General Data Protection Regulation which will replace the 1995 Data Protection Directive. The conclusions which I drew from that political debate helped to guide subsequent discussions at expert level. I subsequently submitted an interim Report to the JHA Council in March and a more detailed progress Report to the JHA Council earlier this month. Apart from these ministerial discussions, intensive discussions involving 26 days of meetings took place at expert level.

The progress Report which I submitted to the JHA Council earlier this month identified the progress which we had made on key aspects of Chapters I to IV of the General Data Protection Regulation. These included a number of key provisions which define the material and territorial scope of the Regulation; its underlying principles; issues related to data subject consent; and the relationship between the right to protection of personal data and the rights to freedom of expression and public access to official documents. In addition, I invited Justice Ministers to broadly support enhanced transparency standards in order to facilitate more effective exercise of data subjects’ rights (Chapter III); introduction of the ‘risk-based’ approach in order to calibrate the obligations of data controllers and data processors (Chapter IV); and the development and application of approved codes of conduct and certification mechanisms by controllers and processors as a means of demonstrating compliance with the Regulation. In addition, a draft revised text of Chapters I to IV which reflects the Presidency's view of the state of play of negotiations at this stage was submitted to the Council. I have arranged to have these documents laid before the Houses for the information of Deputies and Senators.

Overall, the Presidency's intensive efforts to make substantial headway on the data protection reform package at both political and expert levels has been recognised and warmly welcomed by Vice President Reding on behalf of the European Commission and by Justice Ministers. I believe that this progress provides a solid foundation for continued discussions on the remaining chapters of the Regulation, and the proposed Directive on data protection in the law enforcement area, and for their ultimate adoption.