April 14. 2024. 7:31

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Leading MEP enraged by Swedish presidency’s neglect of ePrivacy Regulation

The European Parliament’s rapporteur Birgit Sippel has sent a letter, seen by EURACTIV, to the Swedish ambassador, asking the EU Council presidency holders to accelerate work on a file that seems to be off their priority list.

The ePrivacy Regulation, once meant to be put in place together with the General Data Protection Regulation, has been stuck in a political stalemate for almost six years, first between national governments in the EU Council of ministers and now in the interinstitutional negotiations, so-called trilogues.

The point of contention between the European Parliament and Council, the EU co-legislators, concerns the capacity of law enforcement agencies to access and retain data from private electronic communications.

“I would like to cordially invite you to a meeting regarding this proposal. Please note that it is almost a year since the last political trilogue meeting, and it seems crucial to me that we now make progress on this legislative act, as it will have a significant impact on the fundamental rights of individuals and the future of digital communication in Europe,” Sippel wrote in the letter sent on Monday (6 March).

The political differences between the two institutions seem simply too far to be bridged: EU countries want to give more leeway to law enforcement and make data retention a rule, whereas MEPs are concerned about the surveillance implications of the measure and want to make it a mere exception.

Under the previous Czech Council presidency, some progress was made at the technical level, and EURACTIV reported on a joint paper with the Parliament’s rapporteur outlining some of the most sensitive aspects of the proposal. However, negotiations stalled again over the data retention morass.

ePrivacy: EU legislators chase compromise on processing electronic communications data

After months of stagnating debates on the ePrivacy Regulation, EU lawmakers and diplomats have moved on to discussing the sensitive issue of processing electronic communications data, metadata, and content.

Frustration over the file’s lack of progress has been mounting on the lawmakers’ side as the Swedish presidency mentioned the ePrivacy Regulation in its work programme but has so far done little to progress on the file.

“I would like to invite you to arrange a political trilogue meeting to discuss the proposal and to share your thoughts and insights in order to give a better understanding and guidance to finalise our negotiations,” Sippel added.

Her tone was less diplomatic on Twitter last week when she attacked the Swedish presidency for not being committed to finding a solution. The rotating six-month presidency has an important role in shaping the Council’s agenda and giving impulse to the political priorities.

As Rapporteur I am tirelessly working to find a solution to finally make ePrivacy a reality with a strong emphasis on fundamental rights. I cannot say the same about @sweden2023eu https://t.co/hmVt3Zys1x

— Birgit Sippel MEP (@BirgitSippelMEP) March 2, 2023

In an internal note from last week, seen by EURACTIV, the European Commission’s digital policy department stated that, since Sweden took over the file in January, they “have not set any ambitions on how far they see the file progressing during their term”.

“They are committed to advancing it but have expressed that other legislative files are a bigger priority for their term (eID, Data Act, AI),” the note added.

Just last week, an EU diplomat told EURACTIV that diplomats in Brussels considered the ePrivacy Regulation to be virtually dead and expected the European Commission to withdraw the proposal if no agreement was reached by the end of the mandate.

Sippel is pushing for a political meeting to take place on 25 April or 10 May, with two prior technical meetings to lay the groundwork.

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