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Data retention: European Parliament backs Commission plan

Out-Law News | 28 Sep 2005 | 12:21 pm | 1 min. read

The European Parliament rejected plans from the UK for an EU-wide data retention regime yesterday. But it lacks the power to stop them becoming law so instead it is hoping to divert support towards an alternative proposal from the Commission.

Advert: Free OUT-LAW breakfast seminars, UK-wide: Marketing and advertising on the web; and Ownership and sharing of customer dataThe European Parliament had already rejected the measure – promoted by the UK, France, Ireland and Sweden – in June, but had been asked to reconsider.

MEPs were concerned that the proposals, which came in the form of a draft Framework Decision from the Council of Ministers, threatened the privacy of EU citizens and were not proportional to the threat they were supposed to be tackling. They also feared that Member States would simply ignore the Parliament's objections.

Yesterday it appeared that the Parliament's concerns remain. According to a statement from the Parliament's press service: "MEPs want the rules to be proportional to any threat and for the Parliament to have an equal say with national government in this area."

The draft Framework Decision allows for data retention periods of up to three years and could be adopted by the Council acting alone, unlike the Commission’s proposals, which require the approval of both the Council and European Parliament.

The draft Directive is slightly more liberal than the draft Framework Decision, but it has still drawn criticism from civil liberties groups.

The EU’s Data Protection Supervisor set out on Monday the changes he feels are necessary to make the draft Directive compliant with human rights legislation. He did not express an opinion on the Council's proposal.

German Liberal MEP Alexander ALVARO, the EP's rapporteur on the issue, welcomed Tuesday’s vote.

"The European Parliament has demonstrated once again that it should play a role in the retention of data at EU level,” he said on the website for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. “The European Commission has validated our position by submitting its own proposal on data retention only last week. I assume that Council will not only accept this fact but will now also participate constructively in finding a solution within the co-decision procedure.”

While the Parliamentary rejection is not binding on the Council of Ministers, it is likely to increase pressure on the Member States to allow the Commission’s proposals to proceed.

According to The Associated Press, the UK, which holds the EU presidency until the end of the year, has said that it will support the Commission’s proposals if the European Parliament acts quickly to approve the measure.

The Council is due to meet on 12th October to discuss data retention.