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EU justice ministers: This is not the one-stop-shop you're looking for...

Single regulator for data protection rules gets oversight board

Despite concerns from individual countries, Europe’s Justice Ministers are a step closer to working out who will protect Europeans’ data from big internationals.

The so-called one-stop-shop principle, which was a cornerstone of ex-Commissioner Viviane Reding’s Data Protection Regulation, has been dealt a blow after ministers refused to support it as originally planned. This week they seem to have reached some sort of piecemeal compromise.

The original plan was to regulate companies in the EU country in which they had their HQ, instead of dealing with 28 national regimes. But this would have seen Ireland responsible for vast amounts of data – as Facebook, Apple, Paypal, LinkedIn, Twitter et al are based there (primarily for tax reasons).

Other countries could not live with their citizens being solely regulated by the Irish Data Protection Authority (DPA), so now pan-European European Data Protection Board (EDPB) will oversee decisions by national DPAs.

And in the case of a dispute between national authorities, the board’s final decision will be legally binding.

Of course everyone is still not happy. Ireland, in particular, is worried that the EDPB will be overwhelmed with cases and that European Court of Justice will end up being a one-stop-shop of last resort.

The UK is also opposed to the compromise because it believes that all decisions will end up being made at European rather than national level.

The current Data Protection Directive does not include any obligation for national DPAs to cooperate with each other, so it would appear that some progress is indeed being made. However such announcements at the end of a Council Presidency (the Italians have been heading up the council of ministers since July) should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

Every presidency is keen to say that it was instrumental in making a breakthrough in high profile legislation, hence the positive spin of Andrea Orlando, Italian Minister for Justice and President of the Council. "We see this as an important result for the Presidency, and a decisive step towards achieving global agreement on this complex and important file,” he said.

But even he had to concede that “further technical work will need to be done in the coming months”... under the incoming Latvian EU presidency.

The current Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says she is confident that a full council position on the draft law can be reached by March. Only then will negotiations start with the Commission and the Parliament. Expect this one to run and run. ®

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