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Sweden sued over EU data directive inaction

David Landes · 26 May 2009, 17:28

Published: 26 May 2009 17:28 GMT+02:00

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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.

Story continues below…

“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.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

19:58 May 26, 2009 by SaltWater
European Union is becoming to be GESTAPO!
00:12 May 27, 2009 by Yendor
Why does it always seem to be so difficult for the Swedish Goverment to obey simple EU laws? Sweden always finds itself in front of the EU courts getting sued over one thing or another or just simple inaction, 3 years of inaction! Sweden needs to get its butt in gear and to get with the program!
01:16 May 27, 2009 by Random Guy
Or better yet, get out of the program!
09:36 May 27, 2009 by byke
I think we need to remember, the reason for the problem lays not with the actual details of the legislation. But the fact that sweden signed an agreement and hasnt followed through with its contractual agreements. Yes the Data Directive is a breach of privacy, but this is not the reason why sweden is being sued.
10:53 May 27, 2009 by RoyceD
Suing a whole country just because some of its citizens are lazy? That is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard of. If the EU wants this to go through then threaten to sue the individuals in government! Not us nice hard working tax payers?! I like my government being able to afford things like health care.

Booo to the EU
13:02 May 27, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
Because EU doesn't make laws, they make directives, which are to be implemented in each EU country to fit the local legal framework: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EU_Directive

Each country has its freedom and time frame to interpret the directive relative to the local laws, and contrary to what you think most EU countries regularly face penalties for not implementing directives properly.

Sometimes the time frame is simply too short, e.g. to alter a Swedish grundlag (constitutional law) needs majority votes from two succesive parliaments to pass.

Just google "fail to implement eu directives" and you will see what a mess it is for most EU countries.
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