An Iranian news website (LHVnews) has conducted an interview with the EU Commission Spokeswoman Mina Andreeva, of which the full text follows.
Q: How do you evaluate this scandal (United States spying on Europe)? How is it possible that the US can do this work without European Countries awareness?
A: The Commission has made it very clear: The Commission expects clarity and transparency from partners and allies, and this is what we expect from our United States partners. Discussions on a future free trade agreement with the U.S. will only advance in parallel with discussions on data protection.
Q: Mrs. Reding recently said the recent scandal was a "wake up call”, what did she mean from this phrase?
A: Vice-President Reding said that the PRISM scandal has been a wake-up call for Europe and the data protection reform is the answer. For her, what the PRISM scandal shows is that we need strong data protection rules for Europe in order to regain the trust of citizens, to protect their privacy and to be credible vis-a-vis our American partners. It’s time that governments and the European Parliament show their commitment to protecting citizens’ data and adopt the EU's data protection reform swiftly so citizens can benefit from it in their everyday lives.
Q: How can we explain US spying in terms of justice and privacy?
A: It is clear the American and European conceptions of privacy and data protection differ. In Europe, data protection is a fundamental right, protected by the EU Treaties and enshrined in our Charter of Fundamental Rights. This is not the case across the Atlantic.
This means that EU citizens do not benefit from the same rights in the US as US citizens. For example, in Europe, American citizens can seek redress before a court if they feel their data protection rights have been violated. In the US, EU citizens do not have the same right of redress.
Q: Does EU have any specified policy to confront US aggressive policies?
A: As soon as she heard the news stories about PRISM, Vice-President Reding wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder on 10 June requesting a full and immediate clarification on the matter. She then met Attorney General Holder in Dublin on 14 June where he already provided some explanations and agreed to set up a transatlantic group of experts to discuss these issues and the implications for the protection of EU citizens' personal data. This group will meet on Monday (23 July) again.
In the meantime, we are working to reinforce our data protection rules in Europe. The Commission put a proposal for a reform of EU data protection rules on the table in January 2012 already. These rules will notably provide legal clarity on data transfers: when US authorities want to access the data of EU citizens outside US territory they have to use a legal framework that involves judicial control. Asking the companies directly is illegal. This is public international law.
They will also make it clear that non-European companies, when offering goods and services to European consumers, will have to apply the EU data protection law in full. And we will have tough sanctions to make sure they do – up to 2% of a company's global annual turnover.
At the Informal Justice Council in Vilnius today, Vice-President Reding also announced the Commission is working on a solid assessment of the Safe Harbour Agreement which we will present before the end of the year. The Agreement could be a loophole for data transfers because it allows data transfers from EU to US companies – although US data protection standards are lower than our European ones.
Q: If Edward Snowden applies asylum request to a European Country, will EU accept the request?
A: That would really be a question for the Member States. Mr. Snowden's role in all this is not the real issue at stake. What the debate around PRISM really shows is that a clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a luxury or constraint but a necessity.