Following the entering into law of the Lisbon Treaty on 1st December 2009, the European Parliament gained key competences in the field of intellectual property and data protection laws - namely, Article 16(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Like any child with a new toy, MEPs have indicated that they are more than willing to play with these powers – to both affect legislative change and to demonstrate their worth as politicians to a European populous that grows more and more concerned with data security issues by the day.
1. It is clearly not possible to deny that the European Union has historically been cooperating with autocratic rulers in the Middle East. Regimes such as that of Mubarak’s in Egypt have enjoyed the EU’s financial support over the past 30 years. On 11 February, following several days of protests and violence, Hosni Mubarak stepped down. In a joint statement Van Rompuy and Barroso and Ashton welcomed Mubarak’s decision to stand down, calling for “an orderly and irreversible transition towards democracy and for free and fair elections” and reiterated the EU’s willingness “to help with all its instruments.” Moreover, they pointed out “The preservation of regional peace and stability should remain our shared priority.”
Recent releases of secret files by the Wikileaks website brought hysterics from the British media about the state of the UK’s relationship with the United States. Accusations that the US was spying on the UK, using the UK as a pawn in negotiations, and generally treating London as an inferior sideshow abounded. Yet as the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee reported, in their 6th report of the session in 2010 on the state of the UK’s relationship with America, the British media loves to “indulge in speculation” on this issue and this can not always be helpful, especially when one considers the other alternatives, such as further European integration.
Last September, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a directive on attacks against information systems and repealing Council Framework Decision 2005/222/JHA. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 has been amended in 2008 in order to the UK to meet the framework decision’s requirements. However, the UK would have to amend this Act again. According to the Commission the framework decision “only approximates” member states legislation on “a limited number of offences” such as illegal access to information systems, illegal system interference, illegal data interference, and instigation, aiding and abetting and attempting to do so. Consequently, the Commission has proposed the present draft directive to “further approximate the substantive criminal law of Member States and the rules on procedure.”
The European Foundation has published a briefing highlighting the European Union hypocrisy over Egyptian regime – the discrepancy between generous EU funding and demands for democratisation.
European politicians, including Spanish President Zapatero and French President Sarcozy, have called for European economic government. Others like Luxembourg´s President Juncker have called for Eurobonds wherein EMU governments collectively provide a guarantee. The UK Parliament has before it a motion supporting the Government’s position that the UK should stay out of the European Stability Mechanism; some of us have been quite exercised about the matter.
The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) aims to reduce the impact of electrical and electronic goods on the environment. It increases re-use and recycling and reduces the amount of WEEE going to landfill. It makes producers responsible for financing the collection, treatment, and recovery of waste electrical equipment, and obliges distributors to allow consumers to return their waste equipment free of charge. This Directive has an impact on producers, distributors and recyclers of electrical and electronic equipment.
In 2008, the European Commission has proposed revised laws on recycling and use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. The Commission has stressed that around 65% of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) placed on the market is separately collected however less than half of this is treated and reported according to the requirements of the Directive whereas the rest goes to landfill or ship abroad. Hence, the European Commission has proposed to revise the directive. In fact, the Commission has reached the conclusion that the directive is too complicated for operators in the market and for public authorities to implement.
According to the Commission the implementation of the WEEE has indicated “technical, legal and administrative problems that result in unintentionally costly efforts from market actors and administrations, continuing environmental harm, low levels of innovation in waste collection and treatment, a lack of level playing field or even distortion of competition and unnecessary administrative burden.”
The Council has not reached an agreement yet on collection modalities and on the level of the targets. In fact, Member States are widely divided in the approach to several provisions. In the other hand, the European Parliament has recently voted, at first reading, to tight up the Commission proposal. The MEPs proposed new targets for collecting, recycling and re-using waste.
In September 2008, the European Commission adopted, through the back door, via the “comitology procedure”, a directive 2008/89/EC, amending Council directive 76/756/EEC, relating to the installation of lighting and light-signalling devices on motor vehicles and their trailers. There have even been many concerns in Britain that constantly running daytime lamps will produce the opposite effect – of presenting a significant harm in road safety.
The 2007 European Commission proposal for a Council Framework Decision establishing a European system for the exchange of Passenger Name Records for law enforcement purposes, was, at the time, criticised by the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party and by the European Data Protection Supervisor for providing inadequate procedural safeguards and data protection arrangements. Several provisions proved to be very controversial during the negotiations at the Council working groups, such as a harmonised data retention period and the treatment of sensitive personal data. The Council decided to suspend negotiations on the proposal until the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.