EU Parliament Committee approves of Buttiglione

By EDRi · October 8, 2004

Representatives of the European Parliament’s Social Democrat, Liberal, Green and Left Groups uttered harsh words after the Parliamentary hearing of Rocco Buttiglione (Italy), Commissioner-designate for Justice, Freedom and Security and designated Vice-President of the European Commission. He was interrogated a second time by the parliamentary Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on Wednesday 5 October.

“The groups representing the majority of the Members of the Parliamentary Committee estimate that the moral and political convictions of the Vice-president-designate do not offer in any manner the guarantee that he will engage against discrimination, in particular with regard to sexual orientation, as actively as the Parliament would wish. The standpoint of the vice-president-designate on the role of women in society and on the supposed immorality of homosexuality causes apprehensions with these groups that the Commission’s capacity of legislative initiative be emptied of all or part of its reality.” Mr. Buttiglione, a staunch right-wing Catholic, had angered the MEPs with his remarks on conservative family values.

They were more happy with his views on data protection. “The Groups representing a very vast majority of the Members of the Committee, on the other hand, appreciate (Mr. Buttiglione’s) engagement in favour of data protection, even if the candidate did not show himself very explicit on measures he intends to take on this subject. The Parliamentary Committee remains very worried by the risks of softening the criteria presently in force within the Union by certain international negotiations like the ones being led within ICAO, as well as by certain agreements concluded with the United States.” Mr. Buttiglione had indeed answered very vaguely on questions concerning the Commission’s future policy on the transfer of airline passenger’s data to the United States, which, admittedly, is not his field of competence.

He answered in a much more straightforward manner on his general views concerning data protection: “I am committed to strike the appropriate balance between legitimate law enforcement requirements and the protection of privacy, in conformity with the Treaties and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. High European standards for the protection of fundamental rights of individuals, in particular their right to privacy, already exist. The Commission must continue to ensure that these provisions are properly observed. But we cannot ignore the fact that threats from international terrorism and crime have become a major security challenge. The Council Declaration on Terrorism of 25 March 2004 called for action on the collection and facilitation of the exchange of information. Delivering on this means creating the conditions for making relevant and necessary data and information accessible to EU law enforcement authorities, based on common standards, including data protection provisions.” MEPs were especially happy with Mr. Buttiglione’s commitment to introducing data protection legislation for the EU’s Third Pillar, which does not yet exist. “Protection of personal data in the third pillar is a priority. The preparation of a legislative proposal laying down relevant standards is in the Commission’s legislative and work programme for 2004.

A general rule does not exist, as Directive 95/46/EC does not apply to the processing by public enforcement authorities of personal data for the purposes of Title VI of the EU. We have to build on the specific data protection rules for Schengen, Europol, Eurojust and the Customs Information System.” Mr. Buttiglione will start on 1 November 2004. “Under these reservations, the Groups representing a vast majority of the Members of the Parliamentary Committee give a favourable opinion on the nomination of Mr. Buttiglione at the post of Vice-President, in charge of Freedom, Security and Justice.” MEPs can vote only on all 25 Commissioners at once, not on any single one of them, and it would come as a big surprise if a majority of the Parliament would vote against Manuel Barroso’s Commission.

European Parliament website on Commissioner hearings, including video streams

Buttiglione’s answers to Parliamentarian’s written questions

(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU Affairs Director)