Germany’s distrust of Ireland’s data protection authority came out into the open when a senior minister related it to the failure of the country’s banking supervisor in the lead-up to the financial crisis.
Data Protection Minister Dara Murphy accused Thomas de Maizière of being “disingenuous” and challenged him to make the accusation to his face.
Mr de Maizière, Germany’s interior minister and a close ally of chancellor Angela Merkel, did not mince his words before a meeting in Brussels to agree elements of new EU data protection legislation.
Taking a swipe at Ireland’s position on some elements of the new legislation, he said: “We don’t want the same disaster as we saw in the financial system some years ago.”
Ireland will be in the driving seat when it comes to dealing with complaints against the likes of Facebook since 29 of the top 30 internet companies are headquartered in Ireland.
Under the rules currently being finalised, the data protection regulator in the country in which a company is located will be the one to investigate any complaints from the public.
At the insistence of Germany in particular, the decision can be appealed to a board made up of all 28 regulators at the request of the data commissioner of any one country, rather than a minimum of three as favoured by Ireland.
After the meeting, Mr de Maizière said: “What we need and reached is a system of a one-stop shops so that companies can be located in Ireland, but it is important we have a common decision for Europe. We don’t want the same disaster as we saw in the financial system some years ago.”
Mr Murphy said that companies located in Ireland would be robustly supervised by the Irish regulator and that Mr de Maizière did not raise any such concern at the meeting.
“We all have issues but linking the banking and the data protection issues like this is disingenuous. I would be glad for him to say it to my face and let’s have it out. Germany has many different regulators who frequently do not agree and they will have to do some work on their own system,” he said.
MEP Seán Kelly took a leading role in the legislation going through the European Parliament and expects to be involved in the negotiations later this year. He said he would be looking out for Ireland’s “red lines”.
Germany blames Ireland’s banking supervisor for the collapse of Hypo Real Estate, based in Munich, which it had to bail out at a cost of €9.8bn following its merger with Depfa, which was headquartered in Dublin and so came under the Irish supervisor. Irish authorities say its banking supervisor had joint responsibility with his German counterpart.
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