EU data protection reform: Vice-President Reding and Polish Minister for Administration and Digital Affairs Boni want rules that are good for citizens and good for business
Europa Rapid: “Today Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner and Michal Boni, Minister for Administration and Digital Affairs of the Republic of Poland, met in Brussels where they reaffirmed their intention to make swift progress on the proposed EU data protection reform (see IP/12/46 and IP/13/57).
They agreed on the importance of the data protection reform for individuals and businesses. Europeans should know that their data benefits from a high level of data protection irrespective of where they are in Europe or who processes their data. A modern set of common data protection rules can strongly stimulate the development of Europe’s digital economy. Vice-President Reding and Minister Boni agreed that the data protection reform should increase legal certainty without increasing costs for businesses in Europe’s single market. That is why the Commission is working with the Council and the European Parliament on further developing the risk-based approach in the proposed data protection Regulation. Recognising the significance of the reform, they agreed on the need to continue the pan-European debate on data protection, involving citizens, businesses and NGOs.
Ahead of the Justice Council of 8 March 2013, Commissioner Reding and Minister Boni reiterated their intention to work intensively on the dossier and to support wholeheartedly the Irish Presidency of the Council in its efforts to reach an agreement on the reform.
Vice-President Viviane Reding said: “Data protection is the business model of tomorrow. Making sure that citizens have trust in the way their data is handled is in the interest of consumers and business. This is common sense. We need to create a reliable and clear legal framework so digital business can thrive. It is logical that a hairdresser should not have to comply with the same data protection obligations as a company which processes health data…”
Firms see smartphones as weak link in cybersecurity
Euractiv: “The explosion in smartphone use is leaving businesses vulnerable to cyberattacks since almost half of their employees’ mobile phones can become a target, according to new research.
The 2012 Cyber Security Risk Report – published by Hewlett-Packard at the recent RSA security conference in San Francisco – found that mobile phone vulnerabilities rose significantly (68%) from 2011 to 2012, mirroring the growth of mobile applications and the use of smartphones.
Of the mobile applications tested by HP, 48% of them were found to be vulnerable to unauthorised access.
The European Council and Parliament are to consider a Commission-proposed cybersecurity strategy in the coming months. In January, the EU opened a cybercrime centre as part of a broader strategy to encourage electronic commerce.
The HP report backed up other recent studies in finding that security risks faced by businesses and governments of all sizes are complicated and increasing and that anonymous “hacktivism” is on the rise.
The findings on mobile phone risks were most pronounced, however, reflecting growing concern on the issue, evident at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – the largest telecommunications sector conference – which took place last week…”
BORDERS – IRREGULAR MIGRATION
‘Smart borders’: enhancing mobility and security
Europa Rapid: “The EU is moving towards a more modern and efficient border management by using state-of-the-art technology. Today, the Commission proposed a ‘smart border package’ to speed-up, facilitate and reinforce border check procedures for foreigners travelling to the EU. The package consists of a Registered Traveller Programme (RTP) and an Entry/Exit System (EES) that will simplify life for frequent third country travellers at the Schengen external borders and enhance EU border security.
“The use of new technologies will enable smoother and speedier border crossing for third country citizens who want to come to the EU. Our aim is to facilitate the access of foreign travellers to the EU. This will not only be in the interest of the travellers but also the European economy. It has been estimated that in 2011 alone foreign travellers made a €271 billion contribution to our economy. Modernising our systems will also lead to a higher level of security by preventing irregular border crossings and detecting those who overstay”, said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
Regulation on an EU Registered Traveller Programme (RTP)
1. A Registered Traveller Programme (RTP) will allow frequent travellers from third countries to enter the EU using simplified border checks, subject to pre-screening and vetting. It is estimated that 5 million legitimate non EU-travellers per year will make use of this new program. The RTP will make use of automated border control systems (i.e. automated gates) at major border crossing points such as airports that make use of this modern technology. As a result, border checks of Registered Travellers would be much faster than nowadays.
2. Business travellers, workers on short term contracts, researchers and students, third country nationals with close family ties to EU citizens or living in regions bordering the EU are all likely to cross the borders several times a year. Making it as easy as possible for them to come to the EU would ensure that Europe remains an attractive destination and help boosting economic activity and job creation.
Regulation on an EU Entry/Exit system
1. An Entry/Exit System (EES) will record the time and place of entry and exit of third country nationals travelling to the EU. The system will calculate the length of the authorised short stay in an electronic way, replacing the current manual system, and issue an alert to national authorities when there is no exit record by the expiry time. In this way, the system will also be of assistance in addressing the issue of people overstaying their short term visa.
2. The current practice used by Member States when checking a third country national wanting to cross the EU’s external borders is based mainly on the stamps in the travel document. This practice is time consuming, does not provide reliable data on border crossings does not allow detecting overstaying in a workable way and cannot efficiently cope with cases of loss or destruction of the travelling documents. Moreover, today’s systems will not allow the EU Member States to deal with the ever increasing pressure of travellers accessing and exiting the EU whose number, at the air borders alone, is expected to increase by 80%, from 400 million in 2009 to 720 million in 2030.
Today’s proposals follow a 2011 Communication (IP/11/1234), in which a discussion was launched between EU institutions and authorities about the implementation of new systems, in light of their added value, their technological and data protection implications, and their costs.
The proposals are part of the initiative to strengthen the overall governance of the Schengen area, as announced in the Communication on Migration adopted on 4 May 2011 (IP/11/532 and MEMO/11/273)…”
EU unveils e-border scheme amid ‘Big Brother’ warnings
Euractiv: “Frequent travellers to the EU’s border-free Schengen area will be able to cross frontiers “in seconds” thanks to a special machine-readable card presented today (28 February) by the EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.
Malmström presented a “Smart Border Package”, consisting of a Registered Traveller Programme (RTP) and an Entry/Exit System (EES), which she said will simplify the life of frequent travelers within the Schengen area.
The legislative proposals needs approval from both the European Parliament and EU member states, with the new system expected to start operation in 2017 or 2018.
Green lawmakers in the European Parliament vowed to block the plan, saying it “would create a Big Brother 2.0 at Europe’s borders”.
“All non-EU travellers would be effectively treated as suspected criminals, with their fingerprints to be collected not just every time they enter and exit the EU, but also when they cross identity controls by police within the EU,” said German MEP Ska Keller, the Green’s spokesperson on migration and civil liberties.
To facilitate the crossing of frequent travellers, automated border gates will be installed at all 1,800 crossing points in the Schengen area. Pre-screened travellers will be able to use this system on a voluntary basis, with an estimated 5 million per year expected to use the new programme…”
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Antwerp tax on foreigners
Euobserver: “The city of Antwerp, in the Flemish-speaking north of Belgium, has imposed a special fee on ID cards for non-Belgians, including EU citizens, in a bid, according to one politician, to keep out foreigners.
Non-Belgians who move to Antwerp after 1 May will have to pay €267 to register with local authorities, while Belgians will pay €17.
Some categories of people, including students on the Erasmus exchange programme and legally recognised political refugees, are exempt.
The Antwerp mayor, Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever, says he is introducing the fee because it costs the city more money to process foreign applications…”
Statewatch analysis: The rise of xenophobia and the migration crisis in Greece: The Council of Europe’s wake-up call: “Europe cannot afford to look away” (pdf) On 23 January, the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly issued a draft Resolution and report calling on the EU and its Member States to take concrete solidarity measures in the field of migration and asylum (e.g. reception capacity, resettlement programmes in other Member States). The situation in Greece is seen as a “test case for European solidarity.”
Statewatch analysis: EU: Secretive Frontex Working Group seeks to increase surveillance of travellers (pdf) Frontex has been negotiating in secret to grant state agencies greater access to the personal data of travellers entering the EU. No hard evidence has been presented by EU institutions to support Frontex’s claim that this will lead to more effective border management and critics have warned that the mandatory collection of passenger information is entirely unnecessary and a disproportionate infringement of individual privacy.
Germany may block Bulgaria-Romania’s accession in Schengen
New Europe: “Der Spiegel reports that Germany may block Bulgaria and Romania’s accession in the Schengen zone.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told to Spiegel magazine that Germany may block up Bulgaria and Romania’s accession in the Schengen zone.
EU interior and justice ministers meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss this issue. “Should Romania and Bulgaria insist upon a vote [at the meeting], then the proposal will fail by virtue of a German veto. Even the possibility of partial approval – for arrival by air, or seaports – is off the table” told to Spiegel Mr. Friedrich. Minister’s statement came after the results of recent polls saying that Germans prefer to block up Bulgaria and Romania’s accession in the Schengen zone. Germans believe that after allowing Romania or Bulgaria to join the European open-border zone the number of the immigrants will increase and that will threat the social aid system of the country.
The Schengen zone incorporates 22 EU member states and four European non-EU members. Bulgaria and Romania as EU member states have the right to join the area. However, they had first to complete some other obligations…”
Also on the same topic: Germany to veto Schengen enlargement
UK a ‘long way off’ net migration target
Public Service Europe: “Statistics show net migration to the UK falling but the government may be further from reaching its target than it appears, thanks partly to the impact of including international students in the figures
Yesterday’s statistics showed a significant drop in net migration to the United Kingdom to 163,000 – meaning the government is making progress towards its target of reducing net migration to less than 100,000 by 2015. However, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration is still a long way off meeting its goal, despite a number of tough policy moves already made, and progress may be undone if emigration starts to fall.
Net migration is the difference between immigration and emigration, which means that it can be reduced either by declines in immigration and or increases in emigration. But the government has limited control over emigration, so it must mainly exert its influence through restricting immigration.
So far, the government has seen net migration fall because of the efforts made to curb immigration where possible. Lower immigration is the result of reductions in the number of EU8 migrants – down to 62,000, the lowest it has been since 2004, although the government has no direct control over this flow – highly-skilled workers, and international students.
The decline in student immigration is the largest of all, accounting for more than half of the reduction seen in today’s statistics. 197,000 migrants arrived to study in the year to June 2012, compared with 239,000 in the previous year. Data from the Home Office shows that the number of student visas issued has tumbled as well, by more than 20 per cent, suggesting that universities and colleges will likely see their numbers of international students continue to shrink.
Universities are understandably worried – the higher education sector stands to suffer losses in revenue and competitiveness – but the government should be too. They are not as close to achieving their net migration target as the drop in today’s statistics might suggest.
International students affect net migration on two levels – they are the leading source of immigration, but they also account for much of the emigration, since most students stay in the UK only temporarily. Reduced student immigration will mean there will be fewer students to drive emigration in future. The figures we are seeing today may just reflect the short term impact of falling immigration, but net migration could again rise as emigration falls in turn…”
CRIME / TERRORISM
Statewatch analysis: TESAT report shows decrease in terrorist activity in 2011 but national police forces see a continuing threat (pdf) Europol’s report shows a significant decrease in terrorist incidents between 2009 and 2011 and its attempt to justify anti-terrorism initiatives. The lack of recent activity from established threats such as Al Qaeda and ETA has led anti-terrorist policing to increasingly focus on left-wing, anarchist and single issue groups.
Latvia formally applies for eurozone membership
Euractiv: “Latvia decided on Monday (4 March) to apply to join the eurozone next year, a sign of the faith in the single European currency which still exists despite three tumultuous years which have threatened the project.
Latvia pegged its currency to the euro after joining the European Union in 2004. It and Lithuania, which pegged in 2002, stuck with the links through two years of turmoil after 2008 which saw their economies shrink by up to a fifth.
Both have recovered strongly – in Latvia’s case helped by an EU and IMF bailout in 2009 – and have been on track to seal membership of the 17-member club after neighbouring Estonia joined successfully in 2011.
Small and limber economies, Latvia and Lithuania should slide more easily into the currency bloc than larger states like Poland and the Czech Republic and have remained keener on joining throughout the banking and debt crises.
Many Latvians’ mortgage loans are in euros meaning a switch would decrease currency risk and most see the currency as a lesser long-term risk than the lat. They are also keen to entrench their links with western Europe to keep former imperial master Russia at arms length.
But while the country’s leadership is keen on the project, polls show much of the population are worried that a currency switch will drive prices higher and take control of the economy out of Latvian hands…”
Six-year old’s family reunification case to set legal precedent
Copenhagen Post: “The Western High Court will rule whether a Danish man can claim family reunification for children that he is not biologically related to and hasn’t formally adopted
The fate of a six-year-old Vietnamese boy will set a legal precedent when the Western High Court rules on his Danish stepfather’s application for family reunification.
Fimm Na Thiban was only months old when he moved to Denmark together with his ten-year-old sister and biological mother, Noppore Na Thiban, after she married her Danish husband, Ole Heegaard.
Noppore and Heegaard subsequently divorced and she moved to Thailand leaving Fimm and his sister in Denmark with Heegaard, who has acted as Fimm’s father for as long as the child can remember.
Speaking to TV2 News, Heegaard’s ex-wife stated that she wanted the boy to remain with Heegaard.
“I want him to stay with Ole,” Noppore said. “He has a better future in Denmark than if he stayed with me in Thailand. He is 100 percent better connected to his father than to me.”
Heegaard applied for family reunification for the two children but the immigration service, Udlændingestyrelsen, rejected the application and demanded that the two children leave the country by 10 December 2012…”
ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS
Ombudsman welcomes the Commission’s disclosure of documents on UK opt-out from Charter of Fundamental Rights
Europa Rapid: “The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has welcomed the European Commission’s decision to give access to documents drafted by its services on the UK opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This follows a complaint from the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), a Brussels-based NGO, which wanted to find out why UK citizens do not enjoy the same fundamental rights as other EU citizens. The Commission initially rejected the Ombudsman’s recommendation to disclose the documents. After the Ombudsman addressed a critical remark to the Commission, ECAS again requested access to the documents. The Commission then reviewed its position and released all the documents.
Commission reviewed its initial refusal to give access to documents
ECAS lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman about the Commission’s refusal to give access to five documents, drafted by its services and concerning the UK opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The opt-out was a major issue in the intergovernmental negotiations leading to the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty and the documents were prepared by the Commission in that context.
The Commission explained its refusal by referring to the need to protect both the legal advice it receives, as well as its internal decision-making process.
After inspecting the documents, the Ombudsman concluded that the Commission’s arguments for non-disclosure were not convincing. As access to documents is itself one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter, and as the Commission failed substantively to engage with certain of his arguments, the Ombudsman strongly criticised it for “a most serious instance of maladministration”…”
Also on the same topic: NGO wins access to EU documents on UK opt-outs
Complex EU law-making dubbed ‘infernal, undemocratic’
Euobserver: “Brussels is awash with stories about the unhealthy influence of lobbyists on law-makers but as big a scandal, say some experts, is the increasing amount of legislation made with little scrutiny at all.
The lack of oversight – despite the EU capital’s 754 MEPs and 1,000s of lobbyists – is down to the rising use of so-called secondary legislation coupled with a greater tendency to fast-track primary laws.
The twin effect has been to make much of EU law-making “untransparent” and “unpredictable,” says Daniel Gueguen, himself a lobbyist and long-time expert on so-called comitology.
The problem boils down to the current trend of making basic EU laws very general…”