As European Union interior and justice ministers prepare to discuss EU-wide data protection regulation in Vilnius on July 18-19, Ireland is looking to position itself as the continent’s premier hub for US multinationals, reports The Financial Times.
Dublin said July 15 it was considering adopting a “one stop shop” regulatory approach for companies operating across borders. Irish data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes tells the business daily “it is best if a particular regulator has to become very familiar with the business of a particular company, knowing its data protection policies inside out, ensuring that these are in compliance with the law.”
FT notes this approach has made Ireland attractive for US firms running social networks:
Facebook and LinkedIn have both registered their international headquarters in Ireland and drawn up legal agreements with users outside North America which provide that they fall under Irish data protection law, rather than face regulation under 28 separate national regimes in the EU.
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Not all member states are keen on Ireland’s proposal, however. On July 14, German chancellor Angela Merkel said companies must be subject to the same privacy rules in all states, and not simply obey legislation in the country where they were registered.
Romanian daily Romania Liberă suggests the real reasons for Merkel’s concerns lie closer to home. Data protection has become an issue for this September’s legislative elections in Germany, where “the opposition accuses Merkel of being aware of the spying on German citizens.”
The chancellor defended herself in a televised interview on July 14, insisting data protection was a European problem, the paper says:
Merkel put forth the idea of creating European regulations to ensure better protection of the personal data of Europeans on internet. [She] wants internet companies “to be obliged to tell European countries to whom they are transmitting [users’] data”.
For Romania Liberă, the chancellor implicitly “defended the US authorities, [...] calling the activities of secret services ‘vital’ for democratic states”.
Romanian daily Jurnalul Naţional observes European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding supported the German position the day after Merkel’s intervention.
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