EU Ministers discussed priorities in the Justice area as the Informal Justice and Home Affairs meeting concluded in Dublin today. Data Protection Reform and the new cross-border Insolvency law were the main items considered during another productive day at the Informal Council.
The meeting was attended by Ministers for Justice from across Europe, the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Ms Viviane Reding and representatives from a number of European Union agencies. The Informal meeting was chaired by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD.
The second and final day of the Informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs saw EU Ministers for Justice focusing on two areas crucial to the “Justice for Growth” agenda. The Data Protection reform package is considered essential to enhancing consumer confidence in the online market place. The European Union’s new cross-border Insolvency laws seek to make cross-border insolvency proceedings more efficient, benefiting both debtors and creditors throughout the EU.
“The new Data Protection package is an essential tool for enhancing confidence in the online marketplace."
Making significant progress on the proposed Data Protection Reform package is a key priority for the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The current Data Protection legislation dates from 1995, a time before the development of social networking websites and other internet phenomena. Due to the ever-changing nature of the internet and online transactions, new legislation is now required to ensure that the personal information of EU citizens is protected from those that would seek to abuse it.
Speaking about the proposed reforms, Minister Shatter commented:
“The new Data Protection package is an essential tool for enhancing confidence in the online marketplace. The proposals aim to improve individual’s control of their personal data, including the “right to be forgotten”, whereby an individual no longer wants his or her information processed on the internet. This new right will go some way to address the possible reputational, financial and psychological risks associated with social networking and internet based sites.
Minister Shatter added:
“The Data Protection Regulation also provides the prospect of a uniform regulatory regime across the European Union. This will enable companies and businesses to register with a single data protection regulatory agency, rather than the necessity of multiple registrations and licences currently prescribed in each EU Member State. The one-stop shop provision will crucially reduce costs to businesses and remove barriers to trade within the European market.”
In response to the economic downturn across Europe, the EU has published a proposal to update its cross-border Insolvency law. One of the primary aims of the new legislation will be to give potentially viable companies a second chance before being declared insolvent.
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Shatter said:
“The publication of the new EU Insolvency proposal, which coincided with the completion and enactment of Ireland’s domestic Insolvency legislation, will be of great assistance to many companies that are struggling to stay afloat. It will also deal with the effect of insolvency proceedings on companies with cross-border interests, an element that was not considered under previous insolvency legislation. Modernising EU insolvency rules will have real benefits in supporting the restructuring of business and contribute to Ireland’s overall objective during the Presidency which is to promote stability, jobs and growth. ”
Justice Ministers also heard an interesting presentation by Eugene Corcoran, Chief Bureau Officer of Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau, on Ireland’s civil-based forfeiture and confiscation regime which is considered to be one of the most successful models in pursuing the ill gotten gains of criminals’ money and other valuable assets.
Responding to some excellent examples of information sharing and joint operations between Ireland and Northern Ireland highlighted by the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland, David Ford, Minister Shatter said:
“Practical cross-border cooperation is vitally important to effectively tackle terrorism fed by crime in both jurisdictions. Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has been an unqualified success in the seizure of assets derived from criminal activities in this State and I believe that mutual recognition of European laws in this area would be a positive step toward combating organised crime.”
Mr Corcoran added, “Any measure that would assist in the international enforcement and recognition of non-conviction based forfeiture, based on sound constitutional and ECHR principles must surely be welcome in the fight against serious organised crime.”
A final topic of debate was the protection of fundamental rights. Ministers looked at ways in which political leaders can help tackle growing problems of hate crime and intolerance, including racism and anti-Semitism across Europe. Speaking on this topic, Minister Shatter commented:
“We as Europeans must be greatly concerned by the increase in racism and anti-semitism which is becoming apparent in some parts of Europe. We must remain constantly vigilant and take a united approach at European Union and member state level to address this worrying issue.”
Reflecting on the Informal meeting which concluded this afternoon, Minister Shatter stated, “This Informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers has been both productive and thought provoking. There has been an interesting exchange of views on many key topics and I am confident that the discussions in Dublin Castle this week will be of great benefit in furthering Ireland’s Presidency priorities in Justice and Home Affairs area.”