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Germany can rebuild momentum towards data protection reforms, says watchdog

The German government has been urged to help rebuild momentum towards reforms to the EU's data protection law framework.

Speaking before an audience in Bonn, the European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx backed the German government to unify views of other EU member states on the reforms.

Hustinx expressed regret that the member states had not been able to reach consensus on the wording of the draft General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Directive in the area of justice and policing that were first proposed by the European Commission in January 2012. Only once they reach consensus will EU Ministers be able to iron out a final draft via negotiations with MEPs.

"In spite of strong pressure from economic interests, the European Parliament was able to reach agreement on a compromise position across all party lines which was adopted by a very large majority on 21 October in the competent committee," Hustinx said in his speech (7-page / 198KB PDF). "The Parliament is thus able to enter the negotiating stage with the Council of Ministers with an agreed position. Unfortunately, there has been no comparable progress on the Council."

"Some member states are still causing delays through general reservations. Germany claims a special responsibility and role in the area of data protection, as the Chancellor also made clear several times before the election. Of course, I fully support the goal of realising a high level of data protection. However, I believe that the realisation of this requires a constructive and proactive approach in the European debate, including in the Council," he added.

"The new German government can tackle this subject with drive and energy and thereby gain acceptance of the German position at the European level and lead Europe as a whole to a higher level of data protection. I wish it every success in this endeavour," Hustinx said.

The EDPS admitted that he retains concerns about aspects of the reforms tabled but said he remained adamant that, despite this, the reforms tabled "would lead to a clear improvement in the EU as a whole from which all citizens would benefit".

"These improvements include stronger rights for data subjects, clearer responsibilities for the organisations processing personal data, and improved supervision and enforcement by the data protection authorities," Hustinx said. "The proposed Regulation will provide for far more consistency in data protection in the EU. Moreover, it will cover all the organisations offering their goods or services in the European market and create a much larger scope with uniform rules."

"These improvements are also important for German nationals who make use not only of services produced in Germany but also of services based in other member states which are therefore not subject to German supervision and jurisdiction," he added. "On the basis of the Regulation, it will be possible to establish a uniform level of protection throughout the EU realised through cooperation between the national data protection authorities."

Earlier this month, data protection law expert Marc Dautlich of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that there is still a lot of disagreement that needs to be resolved before data protection reforms will be implemented.

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