Italian-Polish partnership to safeguard personal data in EU


In 2011 the EU went against EDPS recommendations and agreed to share air passenger data with the US. [mroach/Flickr]

Giovanni Buttarelli is to become the new European Data Protection Supervisor, with Wojciech Rafa? Wiewiórowski as his second in command. This discreet institution will play an increasingly powerful role in European policy. EURACTIV France reports

The organisation responsible for ensuring that European Institutions respect the privacy of citizen data is undergoing a change of leadership, after ten years under Peter Hustinx.

The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) voted to appoint Giovanni Buttarelli on 21 October in Strasbourg, after interviewing 5 candidates for the position.

The Italian, who was supported by the Socialists (S&D) and the radical left (GUE/NGL), received 34 votes, finishing ahead of Yann Pavoda, who received 21 votes from his supporters in the EPP, ALDE and ECR groups.

The position of Assistant Supervisor went to Wojciech Rafa? Wiewiórowski, a Polish candidate wh was strongly supported by the Greens, and collected 53 votes. The Parliamentary Committee’s decision will be followed up by a vote in the plenary session.

Strong candidates

The French MEP and member of the LIBE Committee, Eva Joly, declared that she was “struck by the quality of the candidates,” who all had very strong CVs and suitable experience for the post: Noëlle Lenoir is a former French Minister for European Affairs and ethics supervisor in the French Parliament. The other French candidate, Yann Padova, had been Secretary General of the CNIL (French Data Protection Authority) from 2006 to 2012.

Wiewiórowski also demonstrated significant experience in personal data protection, having previously directed the Polish data protection agency, However, the EDPS’ new Italian leader is already an expert in the institution’s work, as he has spent the last five years as Assistant Supervisor.

>> Read: Data privacy tsar warns EU countries not to dilute rules

The EDPS has until now kept a low profile. But with the European Union’s rules on personal data protection currently under review, it is expected to take up a more prominent role in European policy.

In January 2012, the European Commission published a vast legislative package, composed of one directive and one regulation, to update the current European data protection regulations, which date back to 1995. This package was approved by the European Parliament at its first reading in March 2014, and is still being drawn up.

>> Read: National parliaments raise the pressure on data protection

“The European Data Protection Supervisor is becoming more powerful, but is still under construction. There are still many battles to be fought,” Green MEP Eva Joly explained.

The EDPS has not always managed to make its voice heard by the European Institutions, despite regularly speaking out for the protection of European citizens’ personal data.

In 2011, the EU ignored the reservations of the EDPS and adopted an agreement to share flight passenger data with the USA,. More recently, European Institutions tried to partially exempt themselves from the future data protection law.

Eva Joly believes this illustrates the need for “a charismatic leader” at the head of the EDPS.

The EDPS has been responsible for ensuring that the protection of citizens' personal data and privacy is respected by the European Institutions since 2001. The EDPS will play an increasingly important role in European policy in years to come.

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