EU Commissioner Jourová encourages further progress amidst Safe Harbor fall out

The 37th Annual International Conference of Privacy Commissioners in Amsterdam last week was long planned around the proposals of the transatlantic Privacy Bridges Project for a series of concrete steps to bring the U.S. and EU closer together on privacy.  But, with the CJEU’s Schrems decision blowing up the Safe Harbor bridge not long before the conference, there were many references to Safe Harbor as “the elephant in the room.”  Perhaps aptly, the logo chosen for conference was a drawbridge.

One of the few senior EU officials to address the conference, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová addressed the elephant directly, noting in her October 29th address that the Schrems decision does not rule out the development and agreement of a new general comprehensive framework on data transfers between the U.S. and EU.  At this point, however, she indicated that the EU will be looking for “more verification” from the US side,  Commissioner Jourová described the U.S. House of Representatives passage of the Judicial Redress Act as “a good sign,” and she emphasized that it was important for each side to understand their “respective privacy cultures.”  The Commissioner said, unsurprisingly, there was substantial, intense work ahead.

Commissioner Jourová’s Amsterdam remarks came three days after an appearance before the European Parliament in which she disclosed the U.S. and EU have an agreement in principle on Safe Harbor with more work to do, and recognized that “the U.S. has undergone a period of internal review as regards its national intelligence activities. … We are still in the process of assessing these safeguards and of getting further clarifications, but I certainly see some relevant and encouraging elements there.”  She did, however, not explain whether U.S. governmental access must be equivalent to EU governmental access, or some other standard. She will be traveling to the United States November 16 and 17.