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Cooperation on European security issues

53 - Relations with the US on intelligence cooperation and counter-terrorism

Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 4/5
Strategy 3/5
Impact 4/5
Total 15/20
Scorecard 2015: B+ (14/20)
Scorecard 2014: C- (6/20)
Scorecard 2012: B+ (14/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: A (18/20)

Invalidation of the EU–US data-sharing agreement resulted in urgent renegotiations, while outrage over US surveillance died down

The most important development on intelligence cooperation in 2015 was the October decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to invalidate the Safe Harbor agreement, a 15-year-old data transfer pact. Safe Harbor provided rules and safeguards by which European and US companies, including Google and Facebook, could transfer data – from payroll information to internet search histories – between servers in the two regions. Among the ECJ’s objections to Safe Harbor were the lack of channels for EU citizens to contest how their data was used, and the ability of US companies to self-certify their compliance with the regulations.

The EU and the US have been negotiating an updated agreement since the Edward Snowden revelations of 2013, but this became vastly more complicated and urgent following the ECJ’s decision, which set a January 2016 deadline to meet its requirements. Fundamental disagreements remain on the broader question of how to balance privacy and surveillance. TheECJ’s decision has provided the EU with increased leverage in the negotiations: if they fail, there could be a more fragmented approach to transferring data to the US, with each European country setting their own rules for data transfer. Itis also possible that other corporate data-transfer systems and arrangements could be struck down, using the ECJ’s decision as a precedent.

Meanwhile, the furore over the Snowden revelations abated somewhat in 2015. Part of the reason had todo with the increased threat from ISIS, which served as a reminder of the necessity of intelligence sharing. Another part had todo with a period of introspection, especially in Germany, about how European intelligence agencies function (often outside the standards Europeans insist on for the US) and the degree to which they are dependent on US intelligence collection. The US view is that the ISIS threat largely vindicates their position on mass surveillance. It remains tobe seen how the change in political climate will affect the Safe Harbor negotiations.