Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

EU institutions urged to appoint new privacy watchdog by current incumbent

Out-Law News | 08 Jan 2014 | 2:40 pm | 2 min. read

UPDATED: The watchdog responsible for advising EU institutions on data protection compliance matters has warned about the "uncertainty" stemming from delays in appointing his successor.

The five year term of existing European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Peter Hustinx, and Assistant Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli is due to conclude later this month. Hustinx has written to European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič to express concern about likely delays in the appointment of new watchdogs and called for the process for appointing successors to the roles to be speeded up.

Under EU laws, the European Commission is obliged to draw up a list of potential candidates to fulfil the roles of European Data Protection Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor. Successful candidates are elected when MEPs and EU Ministers reach a "common accord" on who should fulfil the roles. Successful candidates are appointed to the roles for five years.

Notices advertising the vacancies were published in July last year. However, it is understood  that the members of an advisory body to the Commission unanimously determined that there were no suitable candidates for the role among those that applied. The Commission therefore decided against making recommendations to the European Parliament and Council of Ministers to consider voting on. 

A spokesman for Hustinx told Out-Law.com that the Commission has yet to publish a list of candidates for the roles for the European Parliament and Council of Ministers to consider. Hustinx is due to retire after 16 January, but a spokesman for Šefčovič told Out-Law.com that the Commissioner is due to meet with Hustinx next week in an effort to agree transitional arrangements following the expiry of his term in office.

Hustinx’s spokesman indicated to Out-Law.com that Hustinx would be happy to continue in the role until a successor is found and added that current existing Assistant Supervisor Buttarelli is a candidate for the soon-to-be vacant EDPS position. The College of Commissioners has yet to decide what action to take to progress with the appointments.

"The mandates of the present team of Supervisors will expire on 16 January 2014," Hustinx said in his letter to Šefčovič (2-page / 97KB PDF). "At this stage, it is highly unlikely that the appointment of a new Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor will take place either before or shortly after this date. This opens the perspective of a period of uncertainty as to when the new team of Supervisors will be appointed."

"This uncertainty and the possibly long delays that may be involved, as well as their different consequences, are likely to harm the effectiveness and the authority of the EDPS over the coming months. The EU is presently in a critical period for the fundamental rights of privacy and data protection, and a strong mandate is required to provide the authority to ensure that these fundamental rights are fully taken into account at EU level," he said.

Hustinx said it is vital that "a fully effective independent control authority" is in place to ensure that privacy rights are properly considered within the EU institutions and when new laws are being set. He called for Šefčovič to "take all the steps necessary to ensure that a new Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor will be appointed as soon as possible".

The EDPS said he had also written to the chairman of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee as well as to the Greek Presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers to express similar concerns to them.

Editor’s note 08/01/2014: This article has been updated to include some further background information.