On October 26, 2012, following the Justice Council’s meeting, Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, delivered a speech highlighting that the Commission’s proposed data protection law reform package is currently at a crucial stage in the negotiation process. Commissioner Reding stated that “[a] high level of data protection will turn the European Union into an international standard setter” and that “[o]nly a high level of data protection will generate trust between citizens and private enterprises.” Commissioner Reding conceded, however, that “[w]e do not want rules that place an excessive burden on business,” and that the Commission is prepared to make certain concessions relating to the draft proposals in order to “strike the right balance.”

Commissioner Reding provided the following three examples of such concessions:

  • The Commission is prepared to consider whether the SME exemptions, including the exemption from appointing a data protection officer, could be broadened and made more flexible, taking into account the amount and sensitivity of the personal data processed by organizations.
  • The Commission is prepared to review the delegated and implementing acts in the draft proposals “one by one” and limit them only to “what is truly necessary.” Commissioner Reding estimates that this could lead to a reduction of the Commission’s acts by up to a 40%. This point is significant as the current proposals for delegation powers have been heavily criticized.
  • The Commission is prepared to promote further flexibility for the public sector, including by introducing specific rules where necessary in certain cases. Commissioner Reding reaffirmed, however, that “the fundamental right to data protection applies as much to the public sector as it does to the private” and that “there can be no general exemption for the public sector.”

The six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union currently is hosted by Cyprus, which will be replaced by Ireland on January 1, 2013. As significant amendments to the Commission’s draft proposals are expected during the Irish Presidency, we anticipate seeing proposals for compromise and resolution over the coming months.