Friday

22nd Mar 2019

EU tells Russia to drop air passenger data law

  • Russia is set to impose a law that will force EU airlines to hand over personal passenger details (Photo: angeloangelo)

European airlines may be forced to hand over passenger details to Russian authorities in contravention of EU privacy rules or face landing and overflight bans.

Russian lawmakers are pushing through a passenger name record (PNR) law that comes into force on 1 July.

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But EU officials have raised concerns over the proposal because it is being unilaterally imposed.

PNR agreements must be bilaterally agreed, says the European Commission.

“We are expecting them [Russia] to suspend the entry into force of the PNR measure,” the commission's home affairs spokesperson Michele Cercone told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (5 June).

Cercone says the commission has been kept in the dark about the details of the legislative proposal.

The Brussels executive first raised the issue with the Russians in Moscow earlier in the year and then sent a letter in mid-March, but never got a response it says.

“We are not familiar with the measures they are planning to introduce, so it is difficult for us to comment on the possible impact,” said Cercone.

Commission president Manuel Barroso also brought up the issue at an EU-Russia summit in Yekaterinburg on Monday.

He said the commission is now ready to conclude a long-awaited visa facilitation deal with Russia, but only "provided technical details are clarified and that future regulations in the area of transport and mobility do not negatively affect our citizens and transport operators."

For her part, Viktoria Vajnai, a spokeswoman from the Association of European Airlines (AEA), says that without a bilateral agreement there would be no legal basis for the airlines to transfer passenger data.

“The possible consequences might include overflight and landing bans,” she told this website.

Such a ban would affect 53,000 flights a year to and from Asia which transit over Russia’s Siberia by EU-based carriers.

Vajnai says the airlines have yet to be officially informed of the conflicting legislative proposal.

Russia’s permanent representative to the EU was unable to provide an immediate comment because he is away, his spokesperson said.

The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee is set to discuss the issue on Monday in Strasbourg.

A separate PNR directive was rejected in April by MEPs in the civil liberties committee.

The latest proposal would have allowed authorities to collect EU passenger data details, such as credit card information for the purpose of investigations into serious crimes and terrorist offences.

The MEPs said proposal should, in their view, provide a better balance between security and civil rights.

The committee was initially unable to refer the PNR debacle to a plenary vote because it was among one of five legislative files blocked last year when member states stripped the parliament of its co-legislator role on the border-free Schengen related proposals.

A parliament source says they have now reconciled the differences with the council and unblocked all the dossiers.

MEPs are now set to vote on the PNR directive at next week's Strasbourg plenary, said the source.

Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Smer, Slovakia's ruling party, wants the country's media to give politicians a right-of-reply, or face stiff fines. Advocates of a free press are alarmed, and it poses a problem for the European Commission, whose vice-president is a Smer presidential candidate.

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