Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Data protection update – A word on the legislative process

2014-04-28

On March 12, the European Parliament accepted the Data Protection regulation. When it comes to EU regulation, this is only the beginning of the process. Anna-Sara Lind, Associate Professor of Public Law, gives us her word on the legislative process.

We are on the way towards a European data protection regulation. On March 12, the European Parliament decided to accept the version of a new Data protection regulation that was suggested by its LIBE Committee in November 2013. The Parliament confirmed its standpoint and as we indicated in our newsletter of January 2014, we are now awaiting the outcome of the negotiations in the Council.

The process of enacting a new Data protection regulation is carried out in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure. This means that the European Parliament and the Council (ministers of the Member States) jointly decide on the adoption of the regulation, after an initiative by the Commission. If the European Parliament and the Council agree on the same version of the text in what is called a first ‘reading’, the proposed regulation is enacted. But in some cases, they do not agree on the text and the procedure continues with a second and possibly even a third reading.

With the data protection regulation, we are now at a point where the European Parliament has communicated its position to the Council that in turn will give its opinion. If the Council and the Parliament do not agree, a process of communication between them starts. The Council will communicate its position and if the Parliament agrees with the Council then the wording of the Council’s proposal stands. If not, then the proposal is rejected.

If no agreement is reached, during the second reading, the next step is to convene a Conciliation committee. This committee has members from both the European Parliament and the Council. Up to this point, each step taken is regulated so that it should not take more than three months. The Conciliation committee speeds up the negotiations. The committee’s task is to foster quick results. Therefore the institutions have only six weeks to react on each other’s decisions. In this phase the Commission works more actively and openly as mediator. With the outcome of these negotiations, a third reading is initiated. At this stage the proposal has to be accepted by both the Council and the European Parliament if it is not to be rejected.

To summarize, we can conclude that these negotiations may take time! European elections are taking place this year. This means that a new European Parliament is entering the stage and may be adding new opinions or settings to the Regulation negotiations. We should also be aware of that the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament represent different interests, legally as well as politically according to the EU Treaties and to real politics. The different rules on time frames, decision making, voting quotas etcetera can be used as efficient tools to strategically plan the future of data protection – and research – in Europe.

By Anna-Sara Lind

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