Delegations from the United States and the European Union continue to negotiate a new safe harbor agreement following the invalidation of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework by the European Court of Justice decision in early October. On November 16, 2015, EU Commissioner Vera Jourová made a public statement while visiting Washington, DC in which she expressed confidence that the parties would reach a new safe harbor agreement before the end of January 2016. She stated that U.S. companies should expect the agreement to create an oversight system that is more responsive and proactive, including stronger oversight by the Department of Commerce. She further stated that the agreement will include an annual review mechanism to address any concerns that arise.
On December 3, 2015, Commissioner Jourová again expressed optimism that a new agreement would be in place before the January deadline, stating that the EU and the U.S. have agreed on concrete next steps in order to come to a conclusion before the end of January 2016. However, Netherlands Justice Minister Ard van der Steur has expressed doubts that such an agreement will be reached in time, stating that the talks have yet to address national security issues.
On December 8, 2015, a group of U.S. and EU industry trade groups issued a joint letter to European and U.S. leaders. In it, they asked officials to take the following steps: (1) reach an agreement on a revised safe harbor agreement; (2) provide clearer guidance on the current legal situation; (3) preserve the single EU digital market; (4) establish a minimum six-month transition period before enforcement after the ruling; and (5) create “sound and predictable” data regulations under the EU’s pending General Data Protection Regulation. On Thursday, December 10, 2015, Commissioner Jourová reported to the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee regarding the status of safe harbor negotiations. She stated that any new safe harbor agreement will include a suspension clause that will allow the EU to suspend the agreement if it determines that certain conditions affecting the privacy of individuals’ personal information exist.