On the 15th of June the Justice Ministers in the Council of the European Union reached agreement on a General Approach to the new EU Data Protection Regulation, allowing the debate to move on to the next stage. The Council agreed upon many of the fundamental pillars proposed by the Commission in 2012 which received the backing of the Parliament in March 2014.

The General Approach contains an agreement to establish a single set of rules on data protection valid across the EU, and a ‘One Stop Shop’ single supervisory authority; meaning that companies with activities in more than one country may only have to engage with the data protection authority in the country in which their main EU base is located. Citizens will be able to make complaints about companies to the national authority in their own state and in their own language and the complaint will then be referred back to the country where the company is based. Non-EU companies will also be subject to the rules if they are offering services in the EU.

The Council agreed to formalise the “right to be forgotten” principle that emerged from the Google Spain case, which requires internet companies to delete outdated or irrelevant personal data, but not as an absolute right. The right to data portability was also confirmed, which will make it easier for users to transfer their personal data between service providers. In sanctions that can be imposed by the national authorities, the Council concluded that fines could be a maximum of €1 million or 2% of the annual global turnover of the enterprise.  Considerably higher maximums had been suggested by the European Parliament.

Negotiations will begin on the 24th of June between the Council, the Parliament and the Commission, with a “shared ambition” of reaching a “final agreement” by the end of 2015. The Regulation is designed with the twin aims of protecting the privacy rights of EU citizens while also moving towards completion of the Digital Single Market, which the EU believes could generate up to €415 billion in additional growth.

Full text of the press release: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5176_en.htm

Link to the Memo: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-5170_en.htm