Spanish DPA chief appointment back to square one

Artículo de Nadine Daher en Global Data Review. Publicado el 22 de septiembre de 2022.

Spain’s highest court has ordered a fresh start to the process of appointing a president and vice-president of the county’s dataprotection authority after it was suspended earlier this year.

The Supreme Court decision sets a new timeline for the appointment process of the authority’s leader, which was meant to takeplace in 2019 when Mar España Martí’s term expired.

During the initial process, the government had announced its selections for the role prior to the public call for candidates. Underthe country’s law, the government must open up the role for public applications; Spain’s government must approveappointments. 

Following litigation by two prospective candidates, the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the process breached thecountry’s data privacy laws and suspended the process.

“We are going back to the moment the decision was made,” Daniel López Carballo, a partner at ECIJA in Madrid, told GDR.

Despite the order, the exact timeline for appointing a new chief remains unclear. López Carballo estimated that it could take sixmonths until Martí’s replacement takes office.

Martí, who took on the role in 2015, continues to fulfil her responsibilities. However, due to these procedural complications, herterm overshot the allocated duration by more than three years.

Internal stakeholders, local institutions and the international data privacy community are awaiting the allocation, López Carballosaid. Until then, major decisions appear to be on «standby.”

Norman Heckh, a partner at Ramón y Cajal Abogados in Madrid, said this “unusual” situation is disappointing for the data privacyindustry and further affects other institutions in the nation.

Uncertainty associated with the delay in appointment has created bottlenecks for the authority. Although the interim institutionmaintains its formal jurisdiction, the current head “will not start important actions when they know that their position has expired,”Heckh said.

These slowdowns, especially in the planning of future action, are affecting the regulator’s ability to implement furtherimprovements, he added.

Among the requirements of the upcoming process, as ordered by the Supreme Court, is that the government is only permitted tonominate one candidate for each position as opposed to a shortlist.

Additionally, stakeholders will be looking into the qualification criteria for the candidates and the transparency of the decision,which were points of contention during the previous process.

“We are confident in the transparency of the new process,” Heckh said. But this situation is a microcosm of the tense politicalenvironment in Spain that currently underlies the entire process, he added.

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