A delegation from the civil liberties committee visited Washington DC last week to find out the latest information on issues such as data protection and legislation on surveillance activities from their American counterparts. The MEPs also provided updates on the EU's data protection reform and on counter-terrorism initiatives, including the passenger name records (PNR) proposal.
Right to judicial redress
One of the key objectives of the visit was to press for equal enforceable rights to effective judicial redress for EU citizens when personal data is transferred for law enforcement purposes. This is one of the last remaining barriers to concluding the EU-US umbrella agreement on data sharing for law enforcement purposes.
While welcoming the initiative of the US, the civil liberties committee stressed to the Department of Justice and the Congress the need to ensure that individuals whose personal data processed in the EU are transferred to the US enjoy equal rights for effective judicial redress as US citizens without any discrimination whatsoever.
German Greens/EFA member Jan Philipp Albrecht, who led the mission to Washington, said: "Our numerous talks with high-ranking officials of the administration, as well as with members of Congress, showed that there is willingness on all sides to get equal treatment for EU and US persons when exchanging information across the Atlantic. Implementing this into legal acts as soon as possible is of paramount importance for rebuilding the trust of citizens as well as for improving transatlantic information exchanges, especially for security purposes."
The delegation also met with members of the US Trade Representative's Office to stress that data protection should remain outside the scope of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is currently being negotiated between the EU and the US. The EU's data protection framework, which governs data processing in the EU, must remain in place. However, the civil liberties delegation stressed this was not about protectionism, but about respecting the EU's fundamental rights.