EU lawmakers on Thursday (10 December) backed plans to track airline passenger names as part of efforts to prevent a repeat of the Paris attacks, some of whose perpetrators travelled freely across Europe before the carnage.
The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee voted 38 for and 19 against to approve the deal negotiated with the 28 member states last week, a statement said.
The measure now goes to the full parliament early next year, with approval expected in the aftermath of the attacks on bars, restaurants, the French national stadium and a concert hall which left 130 people dead.
Investigations have shown that several of the Islamic State jihadi extremists involved had travelled back and across Europe in the months beforehand as they prepared their assault.
Britain, which has long supported the need for the Passenger Name Record (PNR) system, welcomed the vote as an “important step” in combatting terrorism by ensuring that potentially crucial information was available to the authorities.
“We are united in our determination to combat terrorism through a strong yet proportionate national and international response, to tackling the threat posed by Daesh (IS) and countering violent extremism and radicalisation,” British Home Secretary Theresa May told a conference in London.
May’s office separately reported that the number of terror-related arrests in Britain in the year to September had jumped by a third to a record 315, with more than two thirds linked to international cases.
The European Union began discussions on introducing a PNR system in 2010 but misgivings about the security of personal data held up progress, with many MEPs doubly suspicious after revelations about mass US intelligence snooping.
“We cannot wait any longer to put this system in place,” said Timothy Kirkhope, the British Conservative MEP who is steering the legislation through parliament.
“The choice is not between an EU PNR system and no EU PNR system; it is between an EU PNR system and 28 national PNR systems that will have vastly differing, or absent, standards for protecting passenger data,” Kirkhope said in the statement.
France led the calls for adopting the PNR system, which will cover all international and internal EU flights while providing safeguards on access to and use of the data collected.