Big tech accountability? Read the backstory to today's policy debates here on Iptegrity.

It's looking less and less likely that the new EU data privacy rules will be adopted before the 2014 Euro-elections, as the Council of Ministers has effectively blocked the process. Trilogues - tripartite talks between the three major EU institutions - had been proposed to start in January, with the aim of getting an agreement in place by March. But now Iptegrity has obtained confirmation that those plans have been stalled and it is unclear if and when they will be re-started.

Trilogues will therefore not take place in January. The timing is now so tight that even if the Council gets its skates on, an agreement before June 2014 is unlikely.

That will be a huge disappointment to the two European Parliament rapporteurs - Jan-Philipp Albrecht, and Dimitrios Droutsas - on the package of rules incorporating the Data Protection Regulation and a Directive on law enoforcement and data protection*. Indeed, Mr Albrecht is reported to be very angry, according to the German news magazine Der Spiegel. It will also disappoint the EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding. They had put in a place a plan to begin trilogues next month ( Cloak of secrecy hangs over EU privacy reform )and not so long ago, Mr Albrecht had said he was confident of it happening. ( Closed-door trilogues are on the data privacy agenda )

The likelihood that the Council would prevaricate was predicted earlier this year by Iptegrity (see EU data privacy reform - does the Council have the political will? ). Certain Member States, such as Britain, were always unlikely to approve the strong data protection rules that Mr Albrecht and Mr Droutsas wanted. However, if a powerful state such as Germany had stood firmly in favour, there was a chance that other member states could have been swayed.

But the Council has ways of dealing with laws that it doesn't like. If Germany really has changed its mind, then the Council will, at best, take a long time to decide.

Insiders suggest that one of the reasons is a change of heart by the German government, which has joined with Britain to stall the process - and it appears to have done this despite the hacking into Mrs Merkel's phone by US intelligence services .

The signs have been there for a while. The Council has not yet published a Common Position (its formal opinion on the regulatory package). For trilogues to have begun in January, the Common Position would have had to have been ready for discussion at the Council meeting on 6 December. It wasn't.

The only documents circulated by the Council concern the provisions that have excited less public controversy, including the so-called one-stop-shop regulation proposal. The Council has taken the opinion that the one-stop shop would be more beneficial to industry, and possibily negative for citizens. For that reason, it is engaging in an extensive discussion on the topic. It may be a genuine concern, but there is also a view that the Council is filibustering.

According to the report in Der Spiegel, the problem concerns public sector opposition to the new rules. This possibility was also suggested to Iptegrity by a Commission insider, and may have some credence.

The rapporteurs have the option to put their reports to a plenary vote in the European Parliament. That would establish a formal position for the Parliament, on which it could bargain with the Council. It would at least mean that their work would remain on the legislative table for the new Parliament to continue in September.

*Regulation on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (General Data Protection Regulatiom) [Albrecht report] and Directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and the free movement of such data [Droutsas report].

Additional info: analysis of the options on the one-stop-shop proposal by Prof. Niko Hšrting

This is an original article from and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to Media and Academics - please cite as Monica Horten, 2013, Data privacy trilogues stalled by filibustering EU Council in, 19 December 2013. Commercial users - please contact me.


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About Iptegrity is the website of Dr Monica Horten.

I am a tech policy specialist, published author, post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Currently working on UK Online Safety Bill.

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