European concerns on data protection also discussed
Ireland’s Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD, today chaired an EU–US Ministerial meeting on justice and home affairs cooperation. A number of important topics were discussed including enhancing EU-US cooperation in criminal matters, counter-terrorism and cybercrime. The issue of data protection, particularly in the context of recent reports on the PRISM surveillance programme, was also discussed at the meeting.
Minister Shatter - "The importance of protecting individual rights to privacy and ensuring that respect for individual human rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights was emphasised. The crucial need to ensure that any security surveillance undertake is balanced and proportionate was emphasised, as was the need to give essential assurances to European citizens."
Commenting on the issue Minister Shatter said:
“There is understandable concern in Ireland, Europe and the US following recent media reports about the PRISM and Verizon programmes, that data privacy rights are not being adequately respected. The matter was raised with Attorney General Holder today and he provided clarity on a number of issues, in particular in relation to the scope and judicial oversight involved in these programmes.
“There is a recognised need to protect our citizens from terrorist threats but in doing so it is necessary to ensure that the information used is properly obtained and subject to appropriate safeguards. The importance of protecting individual rights to privacy and ensuring that respect for individual human rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights was emphasised. The crucial need to ensure that any security surveillance undertake is balanced and proportionate was emphasised, as was the need to give essential assurances to European citizens.”
This discussion also provided an opportunity to review the progress of negotiations on the proposed EU-US Data Protection Agreement and on progress made at the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council last week on the proposed EU Data Protection Regulation.
Another important issue discussed today was strengthening the EU-US dialogue on victims’ rights. EU representatives briefed their US counterparts on an EU Directive supporting the rights of victims of crime, which was adopted in October last year.
Immediately following the meeting, EU and US representatives met with representatives from a number of organisations providing victim support services, to hear the views of those working directly with victims. Minister Shatter took this opportunity to launch the seventh annual report of Ireland’s Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime.
Commenting on the victims’ rights dialogue, Minister Shatter said:
“Acknowledging and enhancing the rights of victims of crime is a value shared by the European Union and the United States. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are committed to ensuring that critical information, services and protections are in place to support victims of crime. Through this dialogue, we can learn from one another enabling us to improve the services available to those affected by crime across Europe and the United States.”
Ministers also discussed mobility and migration matters touching on many aspects of this important issue including visa waiver programmes, immigration reforms and new areas of cooperation.
In reference to the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment agreement, which was raised at the meeting, Minister Shatter remarked, “I hope it will have a positive impact on the labour markets of the EU and US resulting in increased mobility of nationals of the US and EU Member States for work and business purposes. Even at this early stage, we reflected on how to effectively manage the likely increase in mobility between the US and the EU as well as the likely increased migration flows of third country nationals”.
Today’s meeting was attended by US Attorney General, Eric Holder, US Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security, Rand Beers, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding and European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom. The incoming Presidency of the Council was represented by Lithuania’s Minister for the Interior, Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas, and Vice-Minister of Justice, Paulius Griciūnas.