Sunday

18th Apr 2021

EU passport-free travel at risk, Tusk warns

  • Tusk: 'If we do not get a single European PNR we may end up with 28 national ones' (Photo: European Parliament)

The president of the EU Council has warned that border free travel in the EU could be undermined should lawmakers decide against stepping up security policies.

Donald Tusk on Tuesday (13 January) told MEPs in Strasbourg that an incoherent EU-wide security policy would “put at risk the freedom that we have built at the European level, including Schengen".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“Under my watch, I do not want to see that happen.”

The comments come after the Paris attack against Charlie Hebdo, which has since seen calls from EU ministers and heads of state to step up security and surveillance measures.

At stake is an EU-wide passenger name records (EU PNR) bill that would require airlines to hand over the personal data of its customers to the police.

Tusk said the bill is needed to prevent a patchwork of individual national systems from emerging.

“One European system is clearly better for security and freedom, that was true in December, and unfortunately, it is even more true today,” he said.

National governments want the bill passed as part of a larger effort to locate and track possible terrorists.

The bill, proposed in 2011, has met resistance from MEPs in the civil liberties who voted it down in 2013, over concerns it will violate fundamental freedoms like privacy and is disproportionate.

"We are not against a European PNR system, as long as it goes hand in hand with the necessary data protection safeguards,” said Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt.

Pressure to get it ratified is mounting from inside the EU parliament as well.

EU parliament chief Martin Schulz told reporters in Strasbourg that he intends to use his chairmanship of the house to get the bill passed.

“I will continue to push my position,” he said.

Counter narratives and Internet surveillance

While PNR has dominated the public debate, EU interior ministers are moving ahead with other plans to counter the terrorism threat.

This includes increasing the systematic checks of IDs and figuring out ways to tackle online Jihadist propaganda and recruitment.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft met with all 28 EU interior ministers last October to figure out how to stop the spread of militant Islamist propaganda online.

The commission has since proposed setting up a forum with the firms and member states to develop ways to “enhance European capacity to ensure the removal of illegal content".

The United Kingdom, for its part, already has a special team of operatives, known as the CT Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), tasked to take down such websites.

On Monday, the UK’s prime minister proposed further measures to remove encryption technologies used to mask people’s identities.

The British idea has sparked backlash from civil rights groups.

“Proposals to outlaw encrypted communications not only threaten the very rights they're said to be designed to protect, but begin from a fundamentally flawed premise - that such measures are even possible,” said Mike Rispoli, spokesman for Privacy International, in response to Cameron’s scheme.

Where Jihadist content cannot be removed, the commission has proposed setting up a counter-narrative unit - EU Syria strategic communications advisory team (SSCAT) - tasked to help member states debunk the militant content.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us