In a move to fight terrorism, Brussels proposed yesterday (21 September) a set of guidelines on the exchange of passenger data with countries outside the European Union. Meanwhile, the European Parliament has approved a bill that requires airlines to give families prompt information on air crash passengers.
The guidelines, tabled by the European Commission, set the tone for upcoming negotiations on new passenger name record (PNR) sharing agreements with the US, Australia and Canada.
"PNR data has proven to be an important tool in the fight against serious transnational crime and terrorism, but at the same time, it raises important issues about protection of personal data," said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.
The Commission communication sets out general principles that any PNR agreement with a third country 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.
To ensure that privacy is fully respected, the Commission wants passengers to receive clear information about the exchange of PNR data, have the right to see their own PNR data and have the right to effective administrative and judicial redress.
The guidelines spelled out yesterday by the EU executive also envisage that third countries must ensure a high level of data security and effective independent oversight of the authorities that use PNR data. They also foresee limits on who has access to the data gradually during the period of retention.
MEPs back rapid data sharing on air crash passengers
European Union lawmakers approved a bill on Tuesday requiring airline passengers flying from airports in the 27-nation bloc to name a person to be informed in the event of an accident.
The bill, aimed at informing families quickly in case of accidents, said airlines would also have to hand over a passenger list within two hours of an accident being reported.
"EU airlines, as well as non-EU airlines departing from an EU airport, will be obliged to produce a list […] at the latest within two hours of the notification of the occurrence of an accident," the European Parliament said in a statement.
The new rules are part of the bloc's plan to harmonise and strengthen the independence of air accident investigations, making them free of pressure from regulatory or other authorities.
They have to be passed by the EU Council of Ministers before taking effect.
"The new rules will allow us to improve investigations […] they will also establish uniform rules for assisting victims of air accidents and their relatives," said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas.
A new body, the European Network of Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authorities, will be created to advise the EU institutions and make Europe-wide air safety recommendations.
The new rules oblige air safety investigation authorities to publish final accident reports as quickly as possible – preferably within twelve months of an accident.
After an investigation, safety recommendations will be sent to the airline involved, which will have 90 days to respond.