Lawmakers clash in public over draft EU data protection law

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A spat between two MEPs responsible for leading the updated data protection regulation through the European Parliament has exposed rifts between lawmakers attempting to negotiate the new rules, and reinforced fears that the proposals are running out of time.

The draft regulation proposed in January 2012 (see background) is currently being negotiated among MEPs before a vote in the Parliament's civil liberties (LIBE) committee.

Last week the Parliament’s lawmaker in charge of the legislation, German Green MEP Jan Albrecht, said in an interview: “Some groups in Brussels are now acting against what the European Commission has proposed on the basis of what the Parliament has demanded for.”

MEPs in 2011 voted on and adopted a resolution to ensure the regulation would be as strong, if not stronger, than the 1995 directive. MEPs backed the resolution in a near unanimous vote.

Question of trust

"If we pass through a legislation undermining what we have said in our resolution, undermining current law, then I think we will completely lose the trust in the European Parliament and in the European Union as a whole," Albrecht said.

On Thursday (30 May), Albrecht’s interview provoked a public response from the MEP following the legislation for the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe, UK MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford.

She posted an emailed response to Albrecht on her website in which she said she was “unpleasantly surprised" at what she regards as "a highly irresponsible and misleading interview" he had given.

Ludford accused Albrecht of failing to reflect the body of opinion in the LIBE committee, and including “unworkable or unclear language” in his report.

She rejected “absolutely” any contention that she was trying to weaken data protection, and said she was “dismayed” at Albrecht “stirring things up without justification”. 

An end to the fighting

Originally, the LIBE committee had intended to pass a final resolution on the Commission’s draft in late April. 

A source in the European Parliament sympathetic to Ludford’s views said she felt Albrecht had overstepped the mark by discussing negotiations between shadow rapporteurs in public. These discussions are usually kept secret by MEPs.

Albrecht yesterday (3 June) told EurActiv that he made only a general remark, and called for an end to catfighting on the issue.

On 29 May the European data protection supervisor, Peter Hustinx, told journalists after delivering his annual report to the Parliament’s LIBE committee that foot-dragging by MEPs threatened to sink the legislation.

Hustinx also warned about excessive lobbying by industry interests.

Timeline: 
  • 2013: Updated data protection rules continue to be negotiated by European Parliament and European Council
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