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The European Commission has the power to determine, on the basis of article 45 of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 whether a country outside the EU offers an adequate level of data protection.

The adoption of an adequacy decision involves

  • a proposal from the European Commission
  • an opinion of the European Data Protection Board
  • an approval from representatives of EU countries
  • the adoption of the decision by the European Commission

At any time, the European Parliament and the Council may request the European Commission to maintain, amend or withdraw the adequacy decision on the grounds that its act exceeds the implementing powers provided for in the regulation.

The effect of such a decision is that personal data can flow from the EU (and Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland) to that third country without any further safeguard being necessary. In others words, transfers to the country in question will be assimilated to intra-EU transmissions of data.

The European Commission has so far recognised Andorra, Argentina, Canada (commercial organisations), Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, New Zealand, Switzerland and Uruguay as providing adequate protection.

These adequacy decisions do not cover data exchanges in the law enforcement sector which are governed by the Law Enforcement Directive (Article 36 of Directive (EU) 2016/680).

On 16 June 2021, the Commission launched the procedure for the adoption of an adequacy decision for transfers of personal data to South Korea under the General Data Protection Regulation.

On 28 June 2021, the Commission adopted two adequacy decisions for transfers of personal data to the United Kingdom, under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Law Enforcement Directive (LED) respectively. 

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