The agreement aims to protect personal data transferred across the Atlantic, following revelations of large-scale US snooping. The “Umbrella Agreement” will aid in the fight against cross-border crime and terrorism.
The two sides described Thursday’s signing as a “major step forward in EU-US relations,” although the deal still needs to be approved by the European Parliament.
Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the plan would “improve cooperation…when combating serious crime and terrorism,” adding that it would “advance the full respect for fundamental rights whenever personal data is being transferred between us.”
Van der Steur was joined by his US counterpart, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, for the signing ceremony in Amsterdam.
The so-called “Umbrella Agreement,” follows five years of negotiations and will govern the exchange of personal data – such as criminal records, names and addresses – between US and EU authorities.
The deal follows a similar, separate agreement between Washington and Berlin announced last month to share counter-terrorism data.
Data protection has been a hot button issue in Europe, due in part to revelations in 2013 by US whistleblower Edward Snowden that Washington had carried out mass spying on European citizens and politicians.
EU politicians also expressed concern last month about a separate EU-US deal on commercial transatlantic data flows.
Thursday’s agreement will not only facilitate law enforcement cooperation but also guarantee the legality of data transfers, the two parties added.
Safeguards include setting clear limits on how long data can be held and used, while requiring agencies to seek consent before information is transferred, the agreement read. It also ensures that data is not passed to third countries or organizations without prior consent.
EU citizens will also get the chance to challenge the use of their data in US courts, after US President Barack Obama signed a law in February extending US privacy protections to European nationals.
Another tentative deal to replace the “Safe Harbor” agreement, seeks to ensure US tech companies like Google and Facebook respect EU norms on But last month, the European Parliament called for the removal of “deficiencies” from that deal.
mm/sms (AFP, dpa)