This post was written by Cynthia O’Donoghue.
The landslide of proposed amendments and the recent debates over the PRISM scandal have pushed back the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) vote on the proposed General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation). The vote, initially planned for May 2013, has already been postponed twice (see our blog reporting on the previous postponements).
The primary reason for the delay continues to be the number of suggested changes to the draft Regulation. LIBE received more than 3,100 proposed amendments, in addition to the four reports from other parliamentary committees, a number of EU Member States and some industry groups. An anonymous European Parliament official was quoted by Bloomberg BNA as saying that everybody is overwhelmed with the number of amendments.
The more recent delay concerns the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM programme. The U.S. data-gathering scandal has sparked the debate on re-introducing a clause prohibiting disclosures “not authorized by Union law.” The re-introduction of that clause into the draft Regulation would prohibit any company from disclosing the personal data of EU citizens to non-EU governments other than in accordance with mutual legal assistance arrangements. The clause was dropped from the draft Regulation before the Commission published the final text, but now there is growing consensus for putting it back in.
Continued postponements may substantially impact the overall legislative timeline. Even once LIBE adopts its position on the draft, the Regulation will still need to be accepted by the EU Council and put to a vote by the full European Parliament. On 15 July, vice president and European Commission for Justice, Vivianne Reding, issued an appeal to Member States to place the Regulation on the autumn summit agenda. An orientation vote is now provisionally set for mid-October, as part of Reding’s push to ensure that the whole process closes before the European Parliament is re-appointed in 2014. If this deadline is not met, the new Parliament can decide to return the dossier to the Commission, and the legislative process will need to restart.