European Interest

EU-U.S. relations in justice and home affairs: MEPs conclude visit to U.S.

A delegation of seven MEPs visited Washington, D.C. from 23 to 26 May to discuss the state of play on major Civil Liberties Committee topics with U.S. authorities and stakeholders.

Discussions during the Civil Liberties Committee delegation’s visit focused on the agreement, in principle, of a new transatlantic data privacy framework, possible future legislation on personal data protection at the U.S. federal level, the increased number of such comprehensive privacy legislation adopted at State level, the use of artificial intelligence in law enforcement, the visa waiver programme and counter-terrorism, as well as the EU-U.S. cooperation in the Afghan crisis and in the Ukrainian crisis.

The delegation held meetings with representatives of the U.S. Congress and U.S. Administration, i.e. the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security and Commerce, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). They also held meetings with various think-tank and NGO representatives.

Transatlantic data flows

Civil Liberties Committee Chair and head of the delegation, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), commented on the talks on data protection: “We are pleased that the U.S. administration is now coming forward with a proposal to address the shortcomings raised by the European Court of Justice in transatlantic transfers of personal data and we look forward to exercising our powers of scrutiny on the final text. The details of the agreement have yet to be made public but the European Parliament wants a robust, effective and data protection compliant system for international data flows that provides the adequate level of data protection for EU citizens.”

Discussions on the EU-U.S. agreement on sharing electronic evidence, currently on hold, and on cooperation in the fight against child sexual exploitation online were also high on the delegation’s agenda.

In relation to artificial intelligence and algorithmic biases, the delegation held talks with the newly-appointed Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya of the Federal Trade Commission. The delegation further elaborated on the current work on the Artificial Intelligence Act at the European level and discussed with their interlocutors current relevant developments in the U.S.

Counter-terrorism and visa waivers

At a meeting with the FBI, the delegation welcomed the improved counter-terrorism cooperation between the EU and the U.S., which benefits both parties.

On the EU-U.S. visa waiver programme, MEPs highlighted that Bulgarian, Cypriot and Romanian citizens still cannot enter U.S. territory without a visa, while U.S. citizens can travel to all EU countries visa-free. MEPs demanded that all EU citizens should be able to travel visa-free to the U.S.

The delegation also visited the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters to discuss the current uses and the research work carried out by the U.S. administration on biometrics.

Members of the delegation

Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR (S&D, ES, Head of Delegation); Fabienne KELLER (Renew, FR); Annalisa TARDINO (ID, IT), Patryk JAKI (ECR, PL), Lena DÜPONT (EPP, DE), Loránt VINCZE (EPP, RO), Petar VITANOV (S&D, BG).

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