Remove 'unjustified barriers' to data flows, say 14 EU countries

Out-Law News | 24 May 2016 | 11:15 am | 1 min. read

Ministers from 14 EU countries, including the UK, have called for the removal of "unjustified barriers" to the movement of data across borders.

The ministers from Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK outlined their views in a letter to Henk Kamp (6-page / 532KB PDF), Dutch minister for economic affairs.

The Netherlands currently holds the presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers. The Council, together with the European Parliament, is responsible for passing new EU legislation. The letter was also sent to European Commission officials, including the EU's digital commissioners Andrus Ansip.

"Europe can benefit significantly from new data-driven technologies if the right future-proof regulatory framework is established," the letter said. "It should be ensured that data can move freely across borders, both within and outside the EU, by removing all unjustified barriers to the free flow of data and that regulation does not constitute a barrier to development and adoption of innovative data-driven technologies."

In the letter the government ministers also cautioned against over-regulating online platforms, which they said "bring new opportunities for consumers and businesses and content providers alike".

"We should welcome their contribution to innovation and refrain from one-size-fits-all regulation which would reduce competition and hamper innovation," the ministers said. They said that rather than introducing new regulations for platforms the focus should be on "enforcing existing rules, such as consumer, competition, intellectual property and data protection rules".

"Alternatives to regulation should be investigated rather than adding new burdensome regulation of businesses," the ministers said. "Any regulatory proposals would have to be considered carefully."

The ministers also called for laws on privacy and electronic communications (e-privacy) to be streamlined to avoid duplicating regulations that apply under the general data protection regime.

"We must provide a coherent and technology neutral data-protection regime without overlapping regulation," the ministers said in their letter. "We encourage the Commission to deliver an ambitious review of the e-Privacy directive with the aim to repeal all elements that are no longer fit for purpose while ensuring the right balance between digital products and services and the fundamental rights of data subjects across the regulatory framework."

The Commission opened a review of the e-Privacy Directive last month. It is considering extending the scope of the Directive to include 'over-the-top' (OTT) communication providers.

The Commission is expected to outline more of its plans to deliver a digital single market in the EU later this week