Top 3 EU Countries to Start a Business and Their Data Protection Laws

Data Protection Laws in EU Countries

By Shannon Power, 27th January 2023

Entrepreneurs and business owners alike are always searching for the next best opportunities for their companies. One of the biggest decisions to be made as a business owner is finding the best place to incorporate their new company or expand an already existing entity. It is also important to understand the laws in place for these locations and how they may affect how your business operates. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679 is a data protection and privacy regulation for all individuals within the European Union. The GDPR applies to any company that uses data to offer goods and services or uses data to track online behaviour within the EU regardless of the company’s location. We have compiled a list of three top European countries for business incorporation and their data protection laws so that you know your business is safe.

1. The Netherlands

The Netherlands has always been an attractive location for both leisure and business visitors. Between the highest percentage of non-native English speakers in the EU and its light business regulations, it has become easy for many businesses to relocate post-Brexit. With a long-standing reputation as one of the most innovative countries in Europe, the Netherlands has established a strong community of start-ups that are driven by collaborations between education, research, and business entities.

Some key staples of the country are its high education standards and high connectivity levels. From strong rail links to a highly developed internet infrastructure, the Netherlands can offer your company a potential reach of 500 million clients across Europe. Multiple seaports allow for easy access to external markets for trade companies.

The Netherlands has an efficient company formation process that can be completed remotely. The government also offers ample amounts of support for entrepreneurs including a number of start-up funding, such as:

  • Innovation Credit
  • Dutch Gold Growth Fund
  • Financial Support for self-employed professionals (Bbz)

In the Netherlands, the GDPR and the Dutch GDPR Implementation Act mainly govern the processing of personal data. The relevant supervising authority is the Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP). The AP refers to the guidelines set out by the European Data Protection Board, along with publishing guidelines, Q&A, and explanations of topics under the GDPR and the Act.

2. Ireland

Since the 2008 financial crash, Ireland has bounced back in a big way and is easily among some of the best countries to start up a new business. A combination of the Irish government’s favourable attitude towards business and its low corporate tax rate of just 12.5% results in a climate that is more than welcoming to enterprises of any size. The Irish government allocates a significant number of public resources to entrepreneurs at any stage of their business development through Enterprise Ireland.

Ireland has a relatively young, well-educated, and skilled workforce across multiple different industries. Some of its dominant industries include tourism, pharmaceuticals, high-tech, food and drink, and the software sector. A number of the world’s biggest names in tech have established their European Headquarters in the country, such as Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Ireland also maintains some strong trading deals/arrangements with some of the world’s largest markets such as the US, the UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. With the addition of countless port access, the process of importing and exporting products is made extremely simple.

In Ireland, the GDPR forms the basis of the Data Protection Irish Laws (Data Protection Acts 1998-2018). As an EU regulation, the GDPR does not generally require transposition into Irish law as they have a direct effect. Ireland has legislation known as the DPA18 which was signed into law on the 24th of May 2018.

Among its provisions, the Act:

  • Establishes a Data Protection Commission as the State’s data protection authority
  • Gives further effect to the GDPR in areas where Member States have some flexibility, for example, the digital age of consent.

3. Portugal

With a more attractive climate than most, Portugal is quickly becoming a highly popular location for entrepreneurs. The country is accessible by the Atlantic Ocean through its many seaports, making the process of importing and exporting goods to other countries simple. On its opposing side, Portugal borders Spain. They are equipped with a well-developed, far-reaching rail and road system, giving complete access to the European market.

Whilst the country has an average corporate tax rate of 21%, lower tax rates may apply to companies operating in different regions. For example, a Madeira Local Company can benefit from 11.9% corporation tax up to €25,000 taxable profit.

The Portuguese government offers a number of benefit schemes and working visas for those looking to invest in the country. The Seed Programme which aims to support investment in small businesses and the tax incentive system for research and business development (SIFIDE II) are just two examples. Alternatively, the country offers a Golden Visa. This citizenship scheme involves making a substantial investment in exchange for residency.

Whilst the GDPR and GDPR Implementation Law are fully applicable in Portugal, the Portuguese data protection authority (CNPD) approved Decision 494/2019 in September 2019. This Decision sought to ensure the rule of EU law and the full effectiveness of the GDPR by disregarding certain articles of the GDPR Implementation Law, including Article 28(3) regarding employee consent to data processing, Article 39(1) regarding the determination of fines, and Article 20(1) regarding data subject’s right to information. The general duty of the CNPD is to supervise and maintain compliance with the laws and regulations in the area of data protection.


If you are interested in incorporating a business in any of the above jurisdictions, the team at Euro Company Formations would be more than happy to assist you in doing so. Contact us today at + 353 (0) 1 6461627 or fill out our contact form.