Patrick Van Eecke and Loretta Marshall

As part of the European Council conclusions of 24/25 October 2013, EU Ministers agreed that new Data Protection legislation should be adopted by 2015, rather than by the end of May 2014, as the European Parliament and the Commission had hoped. The Council considers the timely adoption of the European General Data Protection framework as essential for the completion of the Digital Single Market by 2015. Not all Member States – France, Poland, Spain and Italy – were supportive of this development however for the UK, the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, a later agreement to assure quality over speed was well received.

Under the Lithuanian Presidency, the Council discussions are focussed on the second half of the legislation tackling areas such as the ‘one-stop shop’ mechanism, the ‘European Data Protection Board’ and ‘supervisory authorities’. Upcoming Working Party meetings (7/8 and 20 November) shall be dedicated to these provisions. It is therefore anticipated that the approaching Presidency (Greece) shall review the proposed Regulation from the start as there are still many question marks, footnotes and reservations attached to Chapters I-IV of the proposed Regulation.

In the European Parliament, there are strong indications that the Plenary vote shall take place in April 2014, just before the end of the Parliamentary term. Should a vote in April take place, it is anticipated that it could be based on one of the following scenarios:

  1. A vote on the compromise amendments as agreed by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee on 21 October;
  2. A vote on a compromise text between the European Parliament and Council; or potentially,
  3. A vote on certain non-controversial issues – there has been a suggestion from within the Council to vote on the less controversial provisions within the Regulation, however it is currently uncertain as to how separating the non-contentious from the highly contentious issues would work in practice.

Overall, the Institutions are displaying a sense of ‘Data Protection fatigue’ due to the intensity of the discussions underway, both on a material and procedural level. With the imminent end to the current European Parliament’s term, that of the European Commission and the voting changes within the Council that shall enter into force on 1 November 2014, it is anticipated that the coming months shall be important for the direction of the discussions in Brussels.