EU approves data protection agreement with Israel

Move likely to be boon to Israeli economy; Ireland held up concord for ‘political’ reasons but eventually gave in.

European Parliament meeting 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Christian Lutz)
European Parliament meeting 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Christian Lutz)
The EU on Monday approved a data protection agreement with Israel meant to facilitate commerce between Israel and the EU, a technical development with diplomatic overtures that Israel believes was held up because of political, rather than professional, considerations.
Ireland, which has emerged as one of the least hospitable countries toward Israel inside the EU institutions, at first objected to the agreement, but eventually gave in.
The agreement will allow the free transfer of personal data on EU citizens –such as banking information and telephone numbers – to Israel. Ireland reportedly objected because of concerns that the data could be misused.
Ireland expelled an Israeli official earlier this year after eight fake Irish passports were allegedly used in the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
Efforts by Israel to be recognized by the EU as living up to its data protection standards has continued for some three years, and was led by a team inside the Justice Ministry, together with the Foreign Ministry and Israel’s delegation to the EU in Brussels.
The highly technical measure will ease Israeli companies’ entrance into Europe, and is seen in Jerusalem as having not inconsiderable economic significance. It is also viewed in Jerusalem as a further indication of Israel’s integration into the EU’s economy.
The agreement is viewed in Jerusalem as a small victory over some inside the EU who want to block, for political reasons, moves toward integration of Israel into various EU frameworks and initiatives.
The decision comes a week before Stefan Füle, commissioner for enlargement and European neighborhood policy, is due to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s long touted upgrade of ties with the EU, put on hold for all intents and purposes since Operation Cast Lead in 2008- 2009, has been hindered because of the stagnation in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
The Foreign Ministry welcomed the data protection agreement, saying it was a significant legal and diplomatic achievement that shows that professional, rather than political considerations, won out inside the EU.