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High-level Working Group to determine mechanisms for ensuring data safety in EAEU

High-level Working Group to determine mechanisms for ensuring data safety in EAEU

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2/9/2021

The Eurasian Economic Union may establish a working group on digital transformation at the level of heads of relevant departments. First of all, the working group will be engaged in regulating data turnover. This initiative was put forward by Gegham Vardanyan, Member of the Board – Minister in charge of Internal Markets, Information Support, Information and Communication Technologies of the Eurasian Economic Commission, during the panel session "Digital Agenda in the EAEU Strategy until 2025", held within the "Digital Almaty 2021" forum.


​"The Eurasian Economic Union has approved the Strategy for Developing until 2025 which presents key measures and mechanisms required to achieve the Union’s goals and objectives. One of the Strategic Directions for Developing the Eurasian Economic Integration until 2025 is forming the Union’s digital space, digital infrastructures and ecosystems. The issue of drafting an international treaty on data turnover in the Union holds a valuable place in the digital agenda,"
Gegham Vardanyan said. "Today, technologies are being implemented in a prompt manner, but the regulatory part fails behind. The data turnover issue is one of the bottlenecks for developing major projects in the EAEU.

According to the EEC Minister, it is required to determine clear approaches to data separation, in particular: which data should be exchanged within integration processes and which information should be stored only on the Member State’s side. Mechanisms for ensuring data safety (for example, depersonalization), which can help expand the list of information for exchange should be created as well, Gegham Vardanyan believes.

The round table attendees have endorsed the initiative, indicating their interest in cooperation in the field of data exchange within the Eurasian Economic Union.

Hakob Arshakyan, Minister of High-Tech Industry of the Republic of Armenia, has informed that major efforts are being made in Armenia in this direction. "So, the Republic of Armenia has the law on protecting personal data and the Agency for Protecting Personal Data of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia has been established," the Minister said. "Organizing the data exchange within the EAEU is a crucial task for us and for our part, we are ready to discuss approaches to their solution at the working level".

Konstantin Shulgan, Minister of Communications and Informatization of the Republic of Belarus, has noted the growing role of data exchange and similarity of approaches in the EAEU countries on controversial and problematic issues. "Within the Union, we could discuss some common legislative act on data exchange," Shulgan stated. According to him, there are many possibilities for cooperation within the EAEU. Including through the use of depersonalized data as one of the ways to protect them.

"As for creating a working group, it could become a tool that will efficiently address issues requiring prompt consideration," Shulgan stressed.

As stressed by Azamat Burzhuev, Deputy Director of State Enterprise "Center for Electronic Interaction "Tunduk" under the State Committee for Information Technologies and Communications of the Kyrgyz Republic, personal data is of great commercial value in light of accelerated digitalization. But there are outstanding issues that should be resolved. Along with that, major transboundary companies accumulate a large amount of information. "We should think about how to protect our citizens and ensure digital sovereignty. This is difficult to resolve on the scale of Kyrgyzstan. But it would be easier to talk to large corporations on the EAEU scale," Azamat Burzhuev stated.

Furthermore, according to him, it is crucially important to define a paradigm for protecting the data or communication channels, which will inevitably require technological expenses. "The pandemic has shown that information exchange is the focal point. With the EEC assistance, we could organize a very efficient information exchange, optimizing economic processes," Burzhuev believes.

The session attendees have discussed the possibility of forming an alliance for negotiations with international providers on personal data obligations.

The turnover of personal data within the EAEU can give rise to a new large market. Askhat Orazbek, Vice Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan, considers that these are, primarily, anonymized data and some analytics based on it."We are ready to cooperate on the exchange of anonymized personal data. As for non-anonymized information, according to legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, it can be transferred to third parties only with the permission of the citizens themselves. We have a fairly clear approach - personal data should be stored in the territory of Kazakhstan. We are ready for interstate information exchange within the EAEU common processes, this is already a reality", Askhat Orazbek said.

According to him, it is important to harmonize the EAEU legislation in general and to perform targeted work on personal data. We simply should not delve into some certain part of the market. But there is a matter of large Internet service providers. I propose to form an alliance within the Eurasian Economic Union, to come to an agreement enabling to invite them to cooperate in placing personal data of our citizens in the EAEU territory. Neither Kazakhstan nor Kyrgyzstan nor Armenia nor Belarus will be able to resolve the issue on a standalone basis. But I think we can do it quite well together," Askhat Orazbek concluded.

According to Gegham Vardanyan, an agreement on data turnover as well as the use of regulatory "sandboxes" can be one of the incentives for the integration association. 

"Adopting the Agreement on regulating transboundary data turnover in the EAEU will enable creating a common market for data turnover as a basis for development in all areas of cooperation, developing the "data economy" and implementing projects within the digital agenda. The Agreement will enable creating common mechanisms for protecting the rights of data turnover participants. We propose to draft agreed requirements", the EEC Minister concluded.

For reference

Digital Almaty is one of the key platforms for forming and discussing global and regional digital agenda, challenges, decisions and policies in the field of digitalization across the globe. The Forum’s objective is to provide a venue for dialogue at the regional and global levels to discuss the digital agenda in light of COVID-19, new strategies for digital transformation and trends in the field of new technologies during the pandemic.​