On November 18th, the European Union and the United States have held a Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial meeting in Washington, DC. The European Union sent a sizeable group of officials. On behalf of the European Commission, Viviane Reding (Vice-President and EU Justice Commissioner), Cecilia Malström (Comissioner for Home Affairs, pictured) attended. On behalf of the current Presidency of the Council, Juozas Bernatonis (Lithuanian Minister of Justice), Elvinas Jankevičius (Vice-Minister of the Interior of Lithuania) and the future Presidency of the Council,Charalampos Athanasiou (Greek Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights). The United States sent Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and Rand Beers, Acting DHS Secretary.
The meeting comes at an important time for EU-US relations. The recent revelations on the US spying on EU citizens have caused “regrettable tensions” across the Atlantic, according to the Joint Statement. The scandal has the potential to impact the ongoing negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the free trade deal between the EU and the US. In July 2013, the EU and the US have set up an ad hoc Working Group on legal affairs.
The content of the meeting was mainly on data protection issues:
- Negotiations on Umbrella Data Protection Agreement for law enforcement purposes. In March 2011 it was decided that both blocs would aid each other in the fight against terrorism. This round of negotiations was on the protection of passenger and financial information.
- Update on the ad hoc EU-US working group: in July 2013, the EU and the US have set up a Working Group with the issue of personal data collection and citizens rights.
- Update on data protection legislative processes in the US and in the EU: the EU and the US have informed each other of the status of the legislative issues on data protection.
In the wake of the meeting a joint statement contained the following information: “Our meeting […] addressed data protection and issues related to alleged activities of US intelligence agencies. We together recognize that this has led to regrettable tensions in the transatlantic partnership which we seek to lessen. In order to protect all our citizens, it is of the utmost importance to address these issues by restoring trust and reinforcing our cooperation on justice and home affairs.”
Data Protection is a priority issue to Ecommerce Europe. We are monitoring the issue, which is currently stalled in the Council of Ministers. Since the European Commission has signaled that the finalization of the Data Protection Package is a priority before the European Parliamentary elections in May 2014, we are stepping up action to monitor the progress.
For the official Joint Press Statement from the EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting of 18 November 2013, please click here.