Friday 9th October 2015

Minister of State for European Affairs and Data Protection, Dara Murphy TD, represented Ireland in a wide-ranging set of Ministerial discussions at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg yesterday and today. Topics discussed included migration, asylum, serious and organised crime as well as counter-terrorism and data protection.

In relation to migration and following recent agreements on the relocation of asylum seekers throughout Europe, yesterday's session of the Council focused on other aspects of the EU's response to the migration and asylum crisis, including discussions on developing enhanced arrangements for managing external borders. Ministers also adopted Council Conclusions on the Future of Returns Policy following an exchange of views.

Commenting after the meeting, Minister Murphy said: We had a very constructive discussion on the medium and longer-term responses to the unprecedented migration and asylum pressures on the European Union. The EU must act, and is acting, to address the immediate humanitarian and other challenges that this crisis has presented. But in addition to addressing the immediate challenges we need to develop effective longer-term actions and today's discussions have made a useful contribution to that process."

The migration and asylum discussions were followed on Thursday afternoon by a detailed discussion on the fight against terrorism and other serious crime in the EU. Ministers were briefed on the ongoing work of relevant EU bodies in counter-terrorism, combating radicalisation and addressing organised crime. Ministers agreed on further actions to support the work of Member States and relevant EU bodies in tackling the dissemination of extremist propaganda online and in sharing information about the movements of suspected terrorists and 'foreign fighters'. Ministers also approved a range of actions aimed at combating firearms trafficking.

Minister Murphy said: The terrorist threat we face does not solely emanate from within the EU itself. As with the migration and asylum crisis, deeper co-operation with external countries will be needed if we are to address the problem effectively. We also need to tackle not only the root causes of radicalisation, but also the spread of extremist propaganda particularly in the online sphere. In this regard, developing a strategic partnership with the internet and social media industry would be of great benefit.”

Day two of the Council saw Ministers agree on a proposed text for the Data Protection Directive, which sets out new rules for protecting personal data processed by law enforcement authorities across the EU. The agreed text will now serve as the Council's position for negotiations on the Directive with European Parliament.

Speaking after the meeting, Minister Murphy stated: "The agreement that Ministers have reached today offers a balanced and proportionate data protection regime for observance by police and law enforcement authorities. It provides an excellent basis for the forthcoming discussions with the European Parliament on the proposed Directive."

Ministers were also briefed on the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice which found that national Data Protection Commissioners are entitled to investigate complaints about EU data transfer agreements with external countries, irrespective of the European Commission having already decided that such agreements contain the necessary privacy safeguards. The
ruling went on to invalidate the Commission's decision on the 'Safe Harbour' agreement on data transfers between the EU and US, which was the specific agreement at issue in the case. The case had been referred to the European Court by the Irish High Court on foot of an action taken by Mr.
Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy campaigner.

Commenting on the ruling, Minister Murphy reiterated that “the EU and the U.S. must now seize the opportunity and act to set robust global standards for the protection of personal data. The legitimate and safe use of personal data, and indeed the need for data transfer, must always be balanced with strong standards for the protection of personal data. The EU and U.S. need to find this balance, one that can command the confidence and trust of both the citizen and business.”