The European Union directive, known as the Data Retention Directive, was approved by Brussels in March 2006, but Sweden has yet to implement the measure more than three years after its passage.
Now the Commission’s willingness to tolerate the Swedish government’s recalcitrance over the directive appears to have worn out, as the Commission recently decided to file a suit against Sweden in the European Court of Justice, the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper reports.
According to SvD, the European Commission decided to sue Sweden on April 14th, and has recently filed papers with the court to bring the suit forward.
“According to the treaty, the Commission is responsible for starting an infraction claim when a member country doesn’t follow a decision,” said the European Commission’s spokesperson in Sweden, Eric Degerbeck, to SvD.
The Data Retention Directive was championed by former Social Democratic justice minister Thomas Bodström, but has continually lacked the support from Sweden's current centre-right Alliance government.
On two previous occasions, the Commission has questioned why Sweden delayed implementing the law, with the government claiming it was too busy working on the Treaty of Lisbon to turn its attention toward the directive.
The measure stipulates that telecom operators store data about customers’ telephone calls, such as when and to whom calls were made, as well as information about text messages and emails.
Passed in the wake of the Madrid and London terrorist bombings, the directive was seen as an important tool in combating possible terrorist threats, despite concerns from privacy advocates – concerns which have also led the Swedish government to drag its feet.
According to the current Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask, the government hopes to soon present a bill which to update Swedish law with the directive’s requirements.
“Legislative work is ongoing. Our ambition is to present a bill before the summer and the Commission knows that,” she said to SvD.
Nevertheless, Ask was less than thrilled about the Commission’s decision to sue Sweden.
“That’s never a good thing,” she said upon learning of the lawsuit.
It remains unclear what repercussions the suit may have for the ongoing work on what Ask characterized as “not one of my favourite projects”.
Cases at the European Court of Justice take time, and Ask hopes that Sweden may avoid having to pay any fines.