EU-USA: General agreement on data protection and the exchange of personal data

There are currently seven EU-US agreements covering justice and home affairs issues: 1. Europol (exchange of data); 2. Extradition; 3. Mutual assistance; 4. PNR (passenger name record); 5. SWIFT (all financial transactions, commercial and personal); 6. Container Security Initiative (CSI); 7. Eurojust.

Getting agreement on many of them has proved controversial, attracting adverse media coverage, and time-consuming (involving the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice) so now the EU and the USA want to conclude a long-term general agreement covering all future exchanges of personal data concerning any criminal offence however minor.

The Commission's Explanatory Memorandum and Mandate sent to the Council are below. The Decision agreed by the Council of the European Union in December 2010 is not available.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), among others, is concerned that any agreement with the USA in advance of the EU's comprehensive review of data protection - which has only just been launched and is expected to take up to two years to complete - will undermine and influence the review.

The process underway is that the European Commission negotiates with the US side, in secret, based on the mandate in the Council Decision (not public). Agreement is reached and parliaments and people are presented with the end result - the European Parliament will seek to take a view and call for changes if necessary.

The proposals are not limited to law enforcement agencies exchanging personal data and intelligence on terrorism and serious organised crime but cover all crime, however minor.


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