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20 Jul, 2013

EU Justice Commissioner: U.S. Surveillance is a violation of trust


Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner, made the following remarks at the DLD Women Conference 2013/Munich, 15 July 2013.

I’m glad about the opportunity to ‘break new ground’, with you. For me, personally, the DLD is as an extremely useful platform to ‘break new ground’ – some of you might recall that it was here that I broke the news about the EU’s data protection reform, and it was here that I broke the news about the women quota. Two bold initiatives that are about, on the one hand, securing rights, and, on the other, contributing to the economic growth that we need. And two initiatives that reinforce each other: An open, secure and flourishing web is the perfect platform for bringing women together and helping them to achieve great things! I will give you a very concrete example a little bit later on.

Breaking the silence about the most recent Data Scandals

But for me DLD is not only about breaking new ground. It’s also a good opportunity to break the silence. And I will not be silent about the recent revelations on programmes such as PRISM in the United States or TEMPORA in the UK or any other spying programme in any other country. Why? Because, in Europe, data protection is a fundamental right.

Citizens do not want the secret service to listen to every phone call they make or read every e-mail they write. And rightly so. For us Europeans, national security and data protection go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin. National security is important, but it does not mean that anything goes and that fundamental rights no longer apply.

The EU Data protection reform is Europe’s answer

That is, by the way, one of the reasons why, at the DLD conference last year, I announced my plans for a fundamental reform of the EU’s data protection rules – just one day before the European Commission adopted its proposal. 18 months have since passed. 18 months of debating and negotiating. Too long for my taste. But now the pace is going to be accelerated. Because the recent data and spying scandals have been a wake-up call. A wake-up call for all those who have been blocking or trying to water down the Commission’s data protection rules —and who have lately started to voice support, stressing, finally, how important solid data protection standards are for Europeans. It’s time words are followed by action.

I am confident that Member States and the European Parliament will very quickly adopt the Commission’s proposals. And I am also confident that our American partners have understood how important a transatlantic framework for data protection for law enforcement purposes is for mutual trust and understanding. We have already negotiated for quite some time, the moment has come to deliver.

In this respect, I very much welcome Chancellor Merkel’s commitment to support strong and uniform EU data protection rules. And I call on all Member States to follow Chancellor Merkel’s leadership so that the EU data protection reform can be finalised before the elections of the European Parliament in May 2014. This would be a solid basis for a strong and united voice of Europe in on-going transatlantic negotiations.

Essentially this is about trust. Trust has been lost in all these spying scandals. Our central task now is to restore it. Because without trust the digital economy cannot grow. The latest poll by Comscore underlines that German SMEs do not trust cloud computing. 57% are afraid that control over their data will be lost and ask for a clear legal framework to secure data protection. This shows very clearly that big data can only work if people have confidence that their data is safe.

Big data is potentially big business. Potentially. If we can make it safe. And citizens and businesses are calling for rules. With the data protection reform, we political leaders are responding to these calls. Our draft law contains four key building blocks around one central statement: clear rules for a clear internet and the choice for the individual to give out his data or not.

First, on the territoriality. One continent, one rule, no matter if the company is based inside the EU or outside, which includes metadata. That means not just the content of e-mails and phone calls, but also information on where something was sent from or how long somebody spent talking on the phone.

Thirdly, we must also include processors — such as cloud providers — because, as the PRISM scandal has shown, they present an avenue for those who want to access data. The EU will have clear rules on the obligations and liability of those processors.

And finally we must have safeguards against the unfettered international transfer of data. The rules must ensure that the data of EU citizens are transferred to non-European law enforcement authorities only on the basis of a clear legal framework subject to judicial review.

National security and data protection are not enemies. They belong together, it is all about finding the right balance.

From big data to big bosses: more women in top jobs

It is interesting to see that here in Germany and in other parts of the world it is mostly the women who have understood that it is not either or. A free internet thrives on confidence. Confidence needs protection. Protection is not a limitation, but an enabler of freedom. The freedom to reach out, to join forces, to fight for a common aim. And it is not by chance that this opportunity was seized right here, at DLD Women. It gave women the opportunity not only, as a happy few, to meet physically here in Munich, but the opportunity, from Munich, to reach out to the world, showing women they are not alone, By networking, women were able to join forces and become a winning team. Last summer, I was standing here in front of you, deploring the absence of women in leadership positions; analysing the many stumbling blocks hindering women from succeeding. And I pledged action. Some months later I presented the European legislation on quotas.

Still I remember what happened then: an uproar of horror in the male business world. And the answer to this: female networks, the DLD community, the women journalists, politicians from all political parties, professional networks – they all came out in support. And they were convincing: because they forced the naysayers to actually read the text they were fighting so vehemently. And to find out that it was not about rigid quotas, but about a transparent selection process in which qualified, competent women are given a chance. According to the text the Commission proposed, now on the table of the European Parliament, no woman will get a job just because she is a woman, but no woman will be denied a job simply because she is a woman either.

I am glad to see that a majority of Member States supports the Commission’s proposal and that the European Parliament, in several committee votes, is asking for even stronger rules.

Our regulatory pressure worked. The figures prove it it. Since the proposal is out, women get in. The number of competent women on boards is increasing Europe-wide at an accelerated pace. Companies are competing to attract the best female talent.

In this context, something else started here at DLD in Munich last year. Remember my dialogue with Candace Johnson, the satellite lady, the business angel? It was here that she announced the creation of an online database presenting the CVs of “board-ready women”. What started as an initiative of a handful of French and British business schools has grown into a worldwide phenomenon uniting 180 business schools in 70 countries.

Thanks to the database they put together, head-hunters can now look through the CVs of 8 000 women who have all it takes to work in the boardroom. This shatters the old myth of there not being enough qualified women to sit on boards. There are. The “Global Board Ready Women”-initiative, born at DLD, is helping to shatter the glass ceiling and demonstrating the power of women and the web. And it is demonstrating the power of female pragmatism: you unite, you get it done. Like Ursula von der Leyen and the CDU/CSU/women who managed to get the women quota inscribed in the party programme. Like the tireless female members of the European Parliament who will manage to get a strong vote in favour of Europe-wide quotas.


Ladies and gentlemen, the proposals for the EU’s data protection reform and women on boards are just two examples of policies that will help put Europe’s economies back on the path to growth. The economy of the future is digital, and the data protection reform is about harnessing that potential. Diversity is about making sure we have the best talent. Here too, it’s about harnessing potential. And when I look at the potential which is gathered alone in this room, I am fully confident: We will make it!