EU Parliament Will Stifle Trump Concerns to OK Data Pact

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By Stephen Gardner

Nov. 22 — European Union lawmakers are expected to stifle privacy concerns about the incoming Trump administration to vote Thursday to approve an agreement that will govern law enforcement data exchanges between the EU and U.S.

The completion of the law enforcement deal comes amid uncertainties about whether President-elect Donald Trump will follow through on campaign promises to more aggressively extend government access to personal data. Although the agreement is limited to law enforcement data exchanges, its finalization may be a bellwether for how the EU will engage with the U.S. on corporate data transfers and digital economy aspects of trade.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green lawmaker and vice-chair of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE), told Bloomberg BNA that the agreement would be “a step forward in creating common standards on both sides of the Atlantic,” and for this reason “I expect that there will be a majority and it will be adopted.” Albrecht is the author of the recommendation to approve the umbrella U.S.-EU law enforcement agreement. LIBE is slated to bring the recommendation to a vote Nov 24.

The agreement sets out uniform data protection standards for personal information transferred across the Atlantic for law enforcement purposes. The pact is intended as a replacement for the patchwork system under which data is transferred between EU countries and the U.S. on the basis of bilateral agreements.

The agreement was signed by EU and U.S. officials in June, bringing to a close nearly five years of negotiations. European Parliament approval will finalize the agreement.

The agreement includes provisions on:

  •  ensuring that information use is limited to the purposes for which it is collected;
  •  securing data;
  •  limiting the retention of data;
  •  giving individuals access and correction rights;
  •  providing notification of data breaches; and
  •  limiting onward transfer of data.
The agreement is conditioned on EU citizens having a right to complain about the use of their information as detailed in the U.S. Judicial Redress Act.

The full European Parliament, which almost always adopts LIBE-approved matters, is expected to vote on the umbrella agreement during a Nov. 30-Dec. 1 session.

Implementation Up to Trump

Once the EU completes its formalities for adoption of the agreement, it will require “weeks or months” to complete final procedures in the U.S., meaning the agreement is unlikely to be finalized under outgoing President Barack Obama, Albrecht said.

It will be up to the Trump administration “to judge if this is important for them or not,” he said.

Either the agreement will be implemented in its entirety, or it “won’t be applicable,” meaning “we don’t have a step forward” in data protection standards, Albrecht said.

Trump’s transition team didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s e-mail request for comments.

Broad Support in Parliament

Otto Juote, a spokesman for the center-right Conservatives and Reformists European Parliament grouping, told Bloomberg BNA that most EU lawmakers would back the finalization of the umbrella agreement.

“At this point, it is too soon to speculate on the possible effects of the Trump administration on the text,” Juote said.

“We do not expect his administration to ask for a renegotiation,” but if the agreement is implemented and “it turns out that the new U.S. administration violates it, the EU can suspend the agreement,” Juote added.

Tim Allan, a spokesman for the center-left Socialist and Democrats (S&D), the European Parliament’s second-largest political group, told Bloomberg BNA that it is “not clear what the new Trump administration will mean for exchange of data; we will have to wait and see.”

The “overwhelming majority” of S&D lawmakers would back the umbrella agreement, Allan said.

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