MEPs to be sidelined in revived airline data deal
19.06.06 @ 17:20
BRUSSELS - The European Commission is moving ahead with a controversial data exchange deal with the US, with MEPs' concerns set to be sidelined following a legal manoeuvre.
The commission on Monday (19 June) announced that it will now frame the deal under the umbrella of member states instead of the previous, different legal process that required closer involvement of MEPs.
"There is no formal role for the parliament to play" said a spokesperson referring to the proposed new agreement.
The commission had to make the change after the European Court of Justice last month ruled that it had used the wrong legal process for the exchange of up to 34 pieces of air passenger data - including name, address and credit card details - with the US authorities.
But the court did not challenge the content of the deal - although MEPs had been hoping it would be found to be in breach of the EU data protection act.
Parliament had wanted to cut down the number of data that could be given to Washington from 34 to 19 and wanted more safeguards to be put in place.
The court's ruling has enabled the commission to move ahead with virtually the same deal, bar a simple name change.
A commission spokesperson for justice conceded that the contents of its new proposal had not changed but added "we obviously are fully respectful of the views of the European Parliament."
The spokesperson went on to point out that "it is very important to underline that the court did not rule on the content of the agreement - it did not say it's illegal".
The commission also indicated it was backed into a legal corner by the ruling with the only option being to go via the intergovernmental path.
Risk of 25 deals
Brussels is hoping member states will give the green light for the new deal to be set up by 3 July.
Then it has just short of four months - until end of October - to get the deal up and running with the US.
The commission is under pressure to strike an agreement, fearing otherwise that the member states will agree 25 separate deals with the US or that air traffic between Europe and the US will be disrupted because it is not clear who has to hand over which data.
Washington demanded the passenger information after the September 11 attacks in order to combat terrorist threats.