1. Data protection
Justice Ministers reached an agreement on two key pillars:
- First, there was an agreement on the rules that govern data transfers to third countries.
- Second, Ministers agreed on the territorial scope of the data protection regulation. In simple words: EU data protection law will apply to non-European companies if they do business on our territory - the European Single Market.
Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, said: "On the data protection reform, we clearly moved from dormant to dynamic negotiations. It's in the interest of companies to have legal certainty rather than having to spend money on costly law suits only to arrive at the same result at the end." Mrs Reding added: "Following today's agreements, the data protection reform is on track - it is on the right track."
Read Vice-President Reding's full speech + press conference Q&A
2. Protection for children in criminal court proceedings
Justice Ministers agreed on a general approach (an informal agreement) for measures that will guarantee special safeguards for children during criminal court proceedings. The European Commission put forward a directive in November 2013 aiming to establish specific protection for children, as they are particularly vulnerable during court proceedings. Today's agreement also coincides with the publication, by the Commission, of a study on children's involvement in criminal judicial proceedings in all EU Member States.
Every year in the EU, roughly 1.086.000 children face criminal justice proceedings, representing 12% of the total European population facing criminal justice.
Mrs Reding said: "Making the justice system in Europe more child-friendly is a priority for the Commission. That's exactly what this directive does: putting children first by guaranteeing better rights for those who are suspected or accused of a crime." Today's agreement coincides with the publication, by the Commission, of a study on children's involvement in criminal judicial proceedings in all EU Member States.
Children in criminal proceedings: European Commission proposal to increase protection makes a decisive step forward
3. Cross-border insolvency law
The Justice Council backed the Commission's proposal to modernise European rules on cross-border insolvency. The modernised Insolvency Regulation will provide a new approach to help businesses overcome financial difficulties, shifting the focus away from liquidation, while protecting creditors' right to get their money back.
Every year in the EU, cross-border insolvency proceedings affect an estimated 50 000 companies - meaning every year 1.7 million jobs are at stake. About one in four bankruptcies in the EU have a cross-border element. The European Commission is therefore pushing initiatives in the area of justice policy that can foster growth in Europe. The modernisation of cross-border insolvency rules forms just part of this strategy.
"Today's agreement in the Council brings Europe one step closer to providing better conditions for businesses and creditors alike," said Vice-President Viviane Reding. "Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the EU's economy. Europe needs a ‘rescue and recovery’ culture for viable businesses – the modernised insolvency rules will facilitate a fresh start. The changes will allow for increased entrepreneurship in Europe, boosting growth and jobs. Citizens can also rest assured that when their employer faces financial difficulties, the business will stand a better chance of survival."
Modern insolvency rules: EU Ministers back Commission proposal to give honest businesses a second chance