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Security Union: Commission recommends negotiating international rules for obtaining electronic evidence

5 February 2019. Brussels, Belgium

The European Commission recommends engaging in two international negotiations on cross-border rules to obtain electronic evidence.

With the majority of criminal investigations requiring access to evidence based online and often outside the EU, there is an urgent need to equip police and judicial authorities with quick and efficient tools fit for modern reality.

Following up on the European Council Conclusions from October 2018, the Commission presented two negotiating mandates, one for negotiations with the United States and one on the Second Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe “Budapest” Convention on Cybercrime.

Both mandates, which need to be approved by the Council, include specific safeguards on data protection, privacy and procedural rights of individuals.

With an increasing number of investigations needing access to electronic evidence, such as e-mails or documents located on the Cloud, in April 2018 the Commission proposed new rules making it easier for police and judicial authorities to follow leads online and across borders. Given that a number of service providers are based outside of the EU, today’s mandates complete the new rules to ensure greater cooperation at the international level.

Recommending the start of negotiations with the U.S.

Currently, U.S. based service providers cooperate with European law enforcement authorities on a voluntary basis and are not always allowed, under U.S. law, to respond directly to European requests for access to electronic evidence. The negotiating mandate proposed by the Commission aims to:

  • Ensure timely access to electronic evidence for law enforcement authorities in the EU and the U.S. by shortening the time period for supplying the requested data to 10 days (currently it takes on average 10 months);
  • Address legal conflicts by setting out definitions and types of data covered, clarifying legal obligations and ensuring reciprocal rights for all parties;
  • Guarantee strong safeguards on data protection, privacy and procedural rights in full respect of fundamental rights and the principles of necessity and proportionality.

Participating in negotiations under the Budapest Convention

The Budapest Convention is the centrepiece of international cooperation against cybercrime providing a comprehensive framework for cooperation for over 60 countries. The Second Additional Protocol, once in place, will further strengthen this international cooperation including on obtaining access to electronic evidence, enhancing mutual legal assistance and setting up joint investigations. The Commission proposed today a mandate to participate in those negotiations on behalf of the European Union and its Members to ensure:

  • Compatibility of the Protocol with current and future EU law, including in the area of cross-border access to electronic evidence;
  • Enhanced international cooperation through more effective mutual legal assistance, including simplified requests, and setting up joint investigations teams;
  • Direct cooperation of law enforcement with service providers in other jurisdictions;
  • Stronger safeguards for the protection of personal data and national practices on cross-border access to data.


Compliments of the European Commission