EU takes a step closer to data pact with US

Sarhan Basem
EU and american flag - Data Protection

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Commission issued a draft decision on Tuesday, concluding that United States’ safeguards against the country’s intelligence activities abroad were strong enough to address EU concerns, bringing a long-negotiated data pact between the Union and the US a step closer to reality.

“Our analysis has shown that strong safeguards are now in place in the U.S. to allow the safe transfers of personal data between the two sides of the Atlantic,” said Justice Commissioner Didier Raynders on Tuesday.

The draft decision on US adequacy will enable a replacement EU-US data transfer deal to be adopted next year, a key step in a troubled process which has already been halted twice by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), in 2015 and 2020, over discrepancies between Union’s privacy rights and United States’ surveillance powers.

“Today’s draft decision is the outcome of more than one year of intense negotiations with the US that I led together with my US counterpart Secretary of Commerce Raimondo,” said Reynders. “Over the past months, we assessed the US legal framework provided by the Executive Order as regards the protection of personal data. We are now confident to move to the next step of the adoption procedure.”

According to Reynders, “the future Framework will help protect the citizens’ privacy, while providing legal certainty for businesses.” The framework will come under scrutiny from the European Data Protection Board, the European Parliament and, ultimately, individual member-states, most of which will have their legal experts looking at the draft.

The ultimate decision on adopting the US adequacy lies with the Commission, which means that Tuesday’s draft decision represents a significant leap towards its ultimate adoption, as it hints at the prevailing opinion within the EU’s executive.

The draft is likely to face further legal challenges, as many privacy activists remain unconvinced that the safeguards against US spying will truly be effective. For Austrian activist Max Schrems, whose campaign led to the court vetoes in the past, changes proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden are not enough.

“I can’t see how this would survive a challenge before the Court of Justice. It seems that the European Commission just issues similar decisions over and over again – in flagrant breach of our fundamental rights,” said Schrems in a statement.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.