Monday, July 12, 2010

Ireland objects to EU-Israel data deal

Andrew Willis – EU Observer July 12, 2010

Irish minister for justice Dermott Ahern has confirmed that Dublin is seeking to block a new European Commission initiative that would allow the free transfer of personal data on EU citizens to Israel.

The minister's statement over the weekend, reported in Israeli daily Haaretz on Monday (12 July), follows recent media reports that Ireland is concerned the data could be misused after eight fake Irish passports were allegedly used by Israel's intelligence agency Mossad in the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh earlier this year.

As a result, Irish officials last week called for the scrapping of commission plans to declare Israeli data protection standards as being sufficient to allow the transfer of personal data.

Without the formal declaration, the broad transfer of the personal information such as bank and telephone details between the two sides is forbidden.

"It may well be the case that Israel provides data protections which meet EU standards," a spokesman for Mr Ahern said last week, reported the Irish Times.

"But the minister believes the EU committee has to take very serious account of the forgery of EU passports – including Irish ones – by Israel in recent months."

"Personal data provided innocently to Israeli officials by Irish citizens was used in forging passports. Other EU countries, particularly the UK, had similar experiences and that is a matter of the gravest concern."

The commission initiative to make the EU declaration on Israeli data protection standards would have gone ahead automatically if no member state had raised an objection by Tuesday's deadline.

But following the Irish objection, national officials will discuss the matter in a committee that deals with the protection of personal data. The Irish government's decision to intervene partially stems from a concern that the country's citizens would not support the go-ahead on data transfers after the recent passport debacle.

Ireland expelled an Israeli diplomat from Dublin last month as punishment for the alleged illegal use of forged Irish passports in the killing of the Hamas arms dealer in a Dubai hotel in January.

Dubai police have accused Israeli government operatives of being behind the incident and are currently carrying out an investigation.

Separate investigations by the Irish police have found no additional evidence linking the passport forgeries to Israel.


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