EU Parliament could block data sharing with the US

Senior politician warns that no deal can be struck unless EU citizens do not have legal redress

The European Parliament will not approve any data sharing deal with the U.S. unless E.U. citizens have judicial redress when their personal data is transferred to the country, a European politician said Tuesday.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, who is the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in charge of the E.U.'s new data protection law, made those comments after officials from the European Union and the U.S. met Monday in Washington to discuss data protection and mass surveillance.

In an interview later, Albrecht elaborated on the rights E.U. citizens should have in the U.S. "In E.U. law everybody has equal rights," he said. "If a U.S. citizen has a problem with how his data has been treated in the E.U., he can take it up with an E.U. court. We just want the same rights in the U.S. This should be possible, it would be very easy to fast-track change in the U.S.'s privacy act and simply add text to include E.U. citizens. We do need a general E.U.-U.S. framework agreement as the Snowden allegations have shown that there is a threat to E.U. citizens' rights when so much information is going to the U.S." He also said the European Parliament would have to consent to any agreement between the E.U. and the U.S.

After their meeting, E.U. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding and U.S. attorney general Eric Holder issued a joint statement saying that both sides were committed to moving forward with negotiations for a "meaningful and comprehensive data protection umbrella agreement in the field of law enforcement."

They said this was now urgent, despite the fact that negotiations have been dragging on for more than two years. "Our aim is to complete the negotiations on the agreement ahead of summer 2014," said the statement.

For the first time, there was also an acceptance on both sides that the recent revelations regarding the  alleged surveillance activities of U.S. intelligence agencies had led to "tensions in the transatlantic relationship."

Reding told reporters that sharing relevant information is an essential part of transatlantic cooperation. However, she emphasized that the rights of E.U. citizens are non-negotiable. The forthcoming talks on the proposed data-sharing umbrella agreement will address this issue, she said.

Meanwhile the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology will continue to review the National Security Agency's intelligence gathering activities.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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