Greeting from Brussels!
Much like last week, the key daily headline-grabber in most of Europe this week remains Greece. On Wednesday, inside (and outside) the Greek Parliament, there were dramatic scenes during the day as lawmakers wrangled for hours over the harsh terms of the bankrupt nation’s third bailout deal, which envisions up to 86 billion euros in financing in exchange for tough austerity measures and reforms. In what was effectively a “last chance saloon” session, Parliament voted overwhelmingly in the early hours of Thursday morning to back the bailout agreement, despite a major revolt by left-wing allies of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
All said and done, the scale of the left-wing revolt and Tsipras’s overt criticism of creditors has raised questions about the government’s ability to carry out the sweeping reforms and fiscal measures; at the end of the day, Parliament had no other choice but to agree to the bailout conditions—there was no feasible alternative on the table other than a disastrous Grexit in some shape or form. I suspect we might see some additional twists to this Greek tragedy in the coming months. Can Tsipras’s government survive the roller-coaster ride of the last two weeks? Finitia la commedia, some might say.
In privacy news, the second round of trilogue negotiations on the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) saw real movement on Tuesday, according to negotiators. Multiple media outlets are reporting that sources familiar with the discussions claim that a tentative political agreement has been reached already on Chapter 5 and Article 3. These two elements focus specifically on territorial scope and international data transfers. Given the secretive nature of trilogue proceedings—akin to a papal conclave—it is quasi-impossible to obtain a clear position on the talks, although this latest news appears promising.
That said, as reported by Politico, EP Rapporteur Jan Philipp Albrecht told negotiators that elements of the chapter might need to be reopened if Europe’s top court comes back with a ruling on the Schrems-Facebook case before negotiations close. That case involves the EU-U.S. Safe Harbor agreement, which lets American firms legally process Europeans’ data back in the U.S. The Court of Justice of the European Union might (or might not) undermine the legal basis of this deal.
Another interesting piece of news this week involves privacy and the area of competition policy (antitrust for the Americans among you). European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Giovanni Buttarelli met with European Commission (EC) Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager last week to discuss the interaction between data protection and EU competition law. The EDPS is looking to encourage the EC’s competition directorate to include privacy in its toolkit. Buttarelli stated that data protection should be one of the pillars of the future activities of the competition authorities. It will be interesting to see how this discussion gains traction for the future. I’ve heard a few people say of late, "Privacy is the new antitrust." Maybe they are right.
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