European Commission ‘Confident' EU-US Data Transfer Agreement Will Be In Place By January 2016

Author:Mr Philip Nolan and Oisin Tobin
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran

In a recent speech in the US, Věra Jourová - EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality - set out the progress that has been made towards an agreement for EU-US data transfers.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution last month, Commissioner Jourová stated that she is confident that agreement will be reached by January 2016. In particular, the Commissioner cited the following reasons for optimism:

recent guidelines issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union ('CJEU') in its Schrems judgment; the advanced state of negotiations between the US and EU, which started in January 2014; the fact that agreement is in the best interests of EU and US citizens; and the strong political commitment by decision makers on both sides of the Atlantic to make progress. Long term solution needed

Commissioner Jourová expressed the view that, since the CJEU found Safe Harbor invalid, existing alternative methods of transferring data from the EU to the US "are a short-term solution". It is likely that the Commissioner was referring to EU Commission-approved standard contractual clauses and derogations existing under the Data Protection Directive (such as consent and contractual necessity).

Commenting on the Schrems decision, Commissioner Jourová made it very plain that the message the European Commission has received is that "where personal data travels, the protection has to travel with it".

Myths dispelled

Commissioner Jourová specifically sought to dispel some myths and misunderstandings that the Commission believes have arisen since the Schrems decision was delivered:

The CJEU did not make any judgment about the state of the US legal system. Rather, the court stated that, to enable EU/US transfers of personal data, the US has to offer safeguards which are "globally equivalent" to the safeguards enjoyed by EU citizens. The Commission, alongside the various national EU data protection authorities, has sought to ensure uniform application of the Schrems ruling across the EU. The Commission is keen to highlight that EU data protection law has not become unduly fragmented. The Commission is still empowered to make decisions about whether a third country...

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