“We share a commitment to throw light on the still obscured shadows of the Holocaust.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
On 7 July, the IHRA Chair held a briefing on the EU’s draft General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Brussels for the Permanent Representatives and Ambassadors to the EU of IHRA member countries and of IHRA observer countries Bulgaria and Portugal, as well as other stakeholders from various EU institutions.
The aim of the briefing was to raise awareness of IHRA’s concerns related to the GDPR in line with the IHRA Plenary decision taken in Budapest on 11 June 2015, proposing an amendment to the GDPR to protect access to materials bearing on the Holocaust.
On 8 July, Viola Gurisev-Pap, representing the IHRA Chair, Sir Andrew Burns, the former IHRA Chair, and Executive Secretary Kathrin Meyer held successful meetings in Strasbourg with Mr Claude Moraes, Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament, with Ms Kinga Gál, Vice Chair of the same Committee and with Édouard Dirrig, Adviser of the Cabinet of Mr Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament.
On 23 June, the IHRA Chair, Szabolcs Takács, and IHRA Executive Secretary, Kathrin Meyer, travelled to Luxembourg to follow up on the issue of the conflict between the planned General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the commitments enshrined in the Stockholm Declaration.
The IHRA Chair met with Frans Timmermans, the Vice-President of the European Commission as well as with Gaston Stronck, a representative of the incoming EU Presidency of Luxembourg.
The Stockholm Declaration, which is IHRA’s founding document, obligates member states to “take all necessary steps to facilitate the opening of archives in order to ensure that all documents bearing on the Holocaust are available to researchers.” While the current GDPR legislation provides some exemptions for historical and scientific research, there has already been evidence that the imprecision of the language in GDPR has preempted archives to restrict access to sources before the law has even been passed.
In May, the IHRA Chair and Executive Secretary met with Edgars Rinkēvičs, Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Latvian EU Presidency team. After discussing IHRA’s concerns, it was suggested that adding specific language on the Holocaust would ensure that the implementation of the GDPR legislation does not come down to the interpretation of individual archivists.
In Budapest on 11 June, the IHRA Plenary therefore tasked the IHRA Chair and the Heads of Delegation of its 31 member countries (24 of whom are EU members) to inform their Permanent Representation to Brussels and their Members of the European Parliament about the issue. IHRA is now moving to have the following specific Holocaust-related language incorporated in the relevant paragraph: “Nothing in this Regulation affects the full and open access to documents bearing on the Holocaust.”
Both Vice-President Timmermans and Mr Stronck understood IHRA’s concern and stressed that the original intention of the GDPR had never been to restrict access to Holocaust-related archival materials. They assured the IHRA Chair that this potential conflict would be taken into consideration during the next phase of negotiations on the text of the regulation. IHRA will follow up on the visit by approaching members of the European Parliament and the permanent missions of IHRA member countries to raise awareness of this issue in EU circles.