Sunday

23rd Jul 2017

Parliament gives 'half-hearted' support for US data deal

  • Nineteen pieces of data including name, address and credit card details are covered by the deal (Photo: Matt Blaze)

A line was drawn grudgingly under what has become an iconic debate on security versus personal rights when MEPs on Thursday voted in favour of a new air data agreement with the US.

After a lengthy debate where many speakers acknowledged that the agreement was not ideal, 409 voted in favour of it and 226 against.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The new set-up allows the US authorities to continue to gather an array of details, including names, addresses, credit card details, luggage and transfer flight details, from all air passengers coming from Europe – but under tighter conditions.

Ahead of the vote, home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom conceded that the deal is "not 100 percent perfect" but warned that further negotiation with the Washington "is not an option."

Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie In’t Veld, the lead deputy on the issue, urged her colleagues to reject the agreement.

"Ask yourselves, if other countries knock on our doors, and we know that they will, ... Cuba, China, Russia - are we willing to give them our data and (see it used) for profiling on the same terms as we are doing with the United States?"

Brussels and Washington have been debating the matter for almost a decade.

The US said it wanted access to passenger details following the September 2001 bombings in New York and Washington.

Since then, both sides have been tussling over the extent of the information the US can gather, who sees it and how, the length of time it is stored for and for what purpose.

A first agreement came into place in 2004. This was struck down by the European Court of Justice two years later. A much-criticised 'temporary' agreement followed in 2007. This will be replaced by the permanent arrangement approved by MEPs.

But the path to Thursday’s agreement has been tough with Brussels and Washington often ideologically opposed on the need to balance security concerns with those of privacy. The privacy-conscious parliament, meanwhile, gained new powers and was quick to use them on the PNR (passenger name record) issue.

As a result of parliament’s prodding, conditions for data use have tightened. US authorities are now obliged to inform EU authorities when they are following up on a lead using details from European air passengers.

Additionally the data must, in most cases, be made anonymous after a period of six months while the emphasis is on air carriers giving the data to US authorities rather than security officials simply taking it. Meanwhile citizens will have some judicial recourse if their data is misused.

But critics of the deal say that the rules are still too lax. They say there is nothing to stop US authorities from using the data for profiling, and that although data will be anonymised after a certain period it will not be deleted.

Opponents also point out that the text allows the up to 19 pieces of data to be used in customs and immigration checks as well as for public health purposes.

“ I think it is telling and it is disappointing that after nine years of negotiation with our closest friend and ally we can only come up with an agreement that commands half-hearted support from a divided House,” said In’t Veld.

US scores victory on EU air passenger screening

A permanent treaty forcing EU companies to tell US authorities what air passengers email addresses and credit card numbers are or if they ever yelled at a travel agent is one step closer to reality.

Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU

Lawmakers in Poland adopted a controversial reform of the Supreme Court, despite warnings from the EU that the move could trigger a sanction procedure over the rule of law.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary