The name Vera Jourová may mean nothing to anyone in the UK yet, but in the next few weeks the little known Czech politician – in line to become EU justice minister – could leave British businesses with an annual £47bn hole in their pockets.
That is the yearly bill which the DMA estimates will result from the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, over which Jourová will preside.
But, perhaps even more crucially, the data reforms could rewrite the rules of data-driven marketing forever, bringing in a new opt-in only regime and in one fell swoop rendering tens of thousands of marketing databases illegal.
As it stands, MEPs have already voted for the change, but the Council and the Commission have yet to agree their positions. The so-called tripartite negotiations are expected to get underway in December 2014, with the legislation passed in 2015. This will be followed by a two-year “grace” period to give companies the time to adapt.
In a personal letter to all new commissioners, EC president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker told Jourová that he expects her to “ensure the swift adoption” of the EU’s data protection reforms.
If elected, she will be charged with finishing what chief architect Viviane Reding started. Reding was forced to step down in May because she backed fellow countryman Juncker, precluding her from a fourth term in the EU executive.
Martine Reicherts was appointed interim justice commissioner until a permanent replacement was found. Reicherts has already caused a stir by claiming Google’s protests over the recent “right to be forgotten” ruling were designed to put a spanner in the works of the wider data protection reforms.
Very little is known about Jourová other than she is a qualified lawyer, who is the “centre-left” minister for regional development in the Czech government led by Bohuslav Sobotka.
Her appointment has not gone down well in her home country, however, after expectations that Jourová would get a post which was more important to the Czech Republic. It is understood that she wanted the regional aid portfolio, while Prague was hoping she would get the the transport portfolio.
One Czech commentator described her appintment as a “cold shower from Brussels”, adding: “In the past ten years, the Czech Republic´s performance in the EU was one of the poorest among the new members. Prague blocked everything it could block. The Czechs have contributed nothing to the EU. On the contrary, they have shown unprecedented selfishness.”
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