IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice.
No 9 (October 97/Octobre 97/Oktober 97)
The Commission is currently discussing transfers of personal information with governments and other interested parties in several third countries, notably the United States with which a dedicated dialogue on data protection has been initiated. Within the European Union too, the preparation for the entry into force of these provisions is under discussion and a paper on the first orientations was adopted on June 1997.
As from 24 October 1998 the Member States will be required by Directive 95/46/EC to ensure that transfers of personal information outside the EU can only take place if the country of destination offers an adequate level of protection of individuals in relation to the processing of personal data. This requirement will be subject to a number of exceptions, in particular when the individuals concerned agree to the transfer. These provisions aim to avoid circumvention of the mechanisms protecting fundamental rights and in particular the privacy of individuals by simply transferring - at an increasingly low cost - personal information outside the Union.
The implementation of these provisions, which are an essential tenet of the European system of protection of privacy, are attracting growing attention from business circles and the governments of the EU's main trading partners.
The Commission is well aware that prohibiting transfers of personal data to third countries could have a disruptive effect on international trade and on the free flow of information. This would not only have negative repercussions for third countries but also for European industry. The Commission therefore sees as an essential element of its policy the reaching of a consensus at international level and the fostering of the adoption of adequate forms of protection in third countries.
Transfers of personal information is now under discussion with several third countries. Data protection provisions have already been included in a number of international agreements, most recently with Mexico. A dedicated dialogue on data protection has been established between the US administration and the Commission Services. These matters were discussed during the visit of DG XV's Director General John Mogg to the US in July.
Within the European Union too, a methodology to determine what constitutes an adequate level of protection in a third country is currently being developed. The Commission, with the assistance of a Committee of representatives of the Member States (which met for the first time on 4 July 1997) will be required to take decisions on the transfer of data to third countries which will be binding for all the Union.
The data protection working party - an advisory body formed by representatives of the national data protection authorities - which under the Directive is required to give opinions on the level of protection in third countries - has discussed this issue at several of its meetings.
A discussion paper entitled `First orientations on Transfers of Personal Data to Third Countries' was adopted on 26 June 1997. The paper sets out an approach in evaluating the level of protection in third countries. It is proposed first to assess whether a core of fundamental data protection rules exist and then evaluate the effectiveness of the means by which those rules are enforced. Work on this topic, which was discussed again during the seventh meeting of the working party on 16 September, is ongoing. A more formal position can be expected in 1998.
can be obtained from
TEL: (+32 2) 295 16 12
FAX: (+32 2) 296 80 10