The European Commission (EC) has outlined its desire to have a single cross-continent data protection law in place by the end of the year, claiming that it will bring major benefits to consumers and businesses.
A joint statement by EC vice president Andrus Ansip and commissioner Věra Jourová said that the reforms, which have been on the drawing board since January 2012, should become law by the end of 2015.
"We must conclude the ongoing negotiations on the data protection reform before the end of this year," they said.
The hope is that a consensus on the laws can be achieved between the Council of Europe and the European Parliament before the end of the current period of presidency at the EU, headed by Latvia, which ends in June.
The statement came on the ninth European Data Protection Day, and the EU officials said that the time has come to ensure that Europe can balance the challenges and opportunities of the digital era in a modernised legal framework.
"Citizens and businesses are waiting for the modernisation of data protection rules to catch up with the digital age. New technologies are emerging fast and have enormous potential for our society and economy," it said.
"This potential can only be fully realised if people can trust the way their personal data is used. Ensuring trust will allow the European Digital Single Market to live up to its full potential.
"EU data protection reform, which will cut red tape for businesses and ensure a single set of rules, is part of the solution."
The main thrust of the reforms is to bring about a single set of laws for Europe to give businesses more clarity about their requirements under data protection laws and help consumers understand their rights.
This includes the so-called 'right to be forgotten', so that individuals can request data to be removed from company databases, and being able to ask what data is held on systems and how it is being used.
The idea for companies is to create a 'one-stop shop' for data protection, providing a single set of laws to adhere to across the continent. This is seen as important in ensuring that the EU can benefit from the era of digital data.
The EC is pushing hard for the new laws, but some nations, such as the UK, have previously raised concerns, fearing that the proposals will place onerous burdens on firms, especially SMEs.
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