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01/10/2016

MEPs reject EU passenger data storage scheme

Digital

MEPs reject EU passenger data storage scheme

airbus.jpg

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee voted today (24 April) to reject a proposed EU system of storing the private data of airline passengers along the lines of an equivalent US scheme.

Air carriers collect passenger name records, or PNR, data during reservation and check-in procedures for flights entering or leaving the EU, including  the passenger’s name, address, phone number and credit card details.

In February 2011, the Commission proposed obliging air carriers to provide EU countries with the personal data of passengers. This would be used to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute serious crimes or terrorist offences.

The draft rule was rejected in Parliament’s civil liberties committee by a vote of 30-25. The Greens and the European United Left/Nordic Green Alliance voted the proposal down, with the support of most committee members from the Socialists and Democrats and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

The European People’s Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists groups supported the proposal.

The Greens welcomed the vote, with home affairs and civil liberties spokesperson Jan Philipp Albrecht, saying: “MEPs have today voted to put the basic rights of citizens and the rule of law first by rejecting the proposed EU PNR system. This far-reaching system would have led to the mandatory retention and analysis of passengers' private data, flying in the face of EU principles on privacy and data protection.”

Opponents of the measure called on the EU executive to re-think its proposals.

Meanwhile, rapporteur Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, Britain) and other MEPs expressed concern about the vote’s possible impact on EU counterterrorism policy, and asked that the matter be referred to the full Parliamentary chamber for a further vote.

The chairman of the civil liberties committee, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (Socialists and Democrats, Spain) called for the matter be put to Parliament’s conference of presidents in order to decide how to proceed.

Positions

"This disproportionate proposal would have been a grave departure from the constitutional presumption of innocence. This unacceptable paradigm shift in security policy would reverse the presumption of innocence, as well as breaching rulings of constitutional courts in Europe and the European Court of Human Rights,” according to home affairs and civil liberties spokesperson Jan Philipp Albrecht MEP (Germany; Greens).

"Thankfully, MEPs have voted to prevent this and to defend the rule of law and fundamental rights in Europe. This decision must now be respected: the European Commission must withdraw this wrongheaded proposal," added Albrecht.

"Allowing law enforcement authorities access to the Eurodac database, where fingerprints of asylum seekers are stored, effectively puts asylum seekers under suspicion of having committed a crime, which is unacceptable. In addition, this policy contributes to the acceptance of racist views and therefore only serves to boost extremist right-wing groups,"  according to Cornelia Ernst MEP (Germany; Nordic Green Left)  

Background

'Passenger Name Records' (PNR) refers to information provided by passengers and collected by air carriers in order to process reservations and check in passengers.

Such data has been used for almost 60 years by customs and law enforcement authorities around the world. However, only recently has technological development allowed for advance electronic transmission of the data. This makes PNR an even more useful tool to fight serious crime, including terrorism.

According to the proposal, the agreement would be used exclusively to fight terrorism and serious transnational crime, and would be limited to what is necessary for that purpose.

Timeline

  • 2013: Matter to be considered by Parliament's Conference of Presidents

Further Reading

Passenger Name Records (PNR) refer to information provided by passengers and collected by air carriers in order to process reservations and check in passengers.

Such data has been used for almost 60 years by customs and law enforcement authorities around the world. However, only recently has technological development allowed for advance electronic transmission of the data. This makes PNR an even more useful tool to fight serious

crime, including terrorism.

The Commission recently issued a communication setting out the general principles of a PNR agreement with third countries.  

According to the paper, the agreement should be used exclusively to fight terrorism and serious transnational crime, and should be limited to what is necessary for that purpose. This should be clearly listed in the agreement