Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, addressed the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee yesterday evening, 1 February, to inform the MEPs of the state of play in the negotiations. “Negotiations are still ongoing, including at the political level. There have been very intensive discussions at the weekend. The College [the 28 EU Commissioners] will discuss the matter tomorrow [2 February], so I’m not yet in a position to enter into detail,” Jourová said.
The new proposal would be based on trust but with a constant monitoring function, Jourová said. The new deal would be concluded by way of “letters signed at the highest political level in the US” – something that was criticised by the MEPs as not providing a strong enough legal basis for the arrangement. The agreement will have to be able to stand a possible new legal challenge in Europe. The latest proposal is to set up an Ombudsman in the US to deal with individual complaints at the federal level. This body would have to be independent and established at the highest level, and have access to US national security bodies. Talks on the role of the Ombudsman are still continuing.
Jourová listed the four key components needed for a deal;
1. Limitations and safeguards against access by public authorities to personal data
2. Access by EU citizens to judicial redress in the US in the event of complaints
3. A free of charge mechanism to resolve individual complaints in the event of privacy violations
4. The need for a formal binding commitment by the US
“If this system will not work in practice I am willing to propose the suspension of it,” Jourová said. “We need commitments by the US that are formal and binding. As this will not be an international agreement, but an exchange of letters, we need signatures at the highest political level and publication of the commitments in the Federal Register.” She said that she will speak later to the US Secretary for the Department of Commerce.