Friday

19th Jan 2018

MEPs break deadlock on airline passenger bill

  • France wants systematic document checks of all EU nationals entering and leaving the EU (Photo: afagen)

Police are a step closer to gaining broad access to the personal details of anyone flying in or out of Europe after EU lawmakers on Wednesday (11 February) agreed to break a deadlock on a stalled EU bill.

Euro-deputies in Strasbourg voted on a resolution with an amendment to reach an agreement on the EU’s passenger name (EU PNR) record bill by the end of the year.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

  • A carte blanche to scale-back personal freedoms? (Photo: johnnyalive)

"This is the most positive statement the European Parliament has given on PNR in several years,” said the assembly’s lead negotiator on the file, UK conservative Timothy Kirkhope.

The timing is of importance because EU leaders will be discussing the issue with parliament president Martin Schulz at the summit in Brussels on Thursday afternoon.

Member states want the bill, set to cost some €500 million by commission estimates, signed by the European parliament as soon as possible.

First proposed in 2011 and then blocked two years later by MEPs in the civil liberties committee, the bill requires airlines to hand over details like travel dates, travel itinerary, ticket information, contact details, the travel agent at which the flight was booked, means of payment used, seat number and baggage information.

Civil liberty defenders question whether the level of scrutiny and proposed five-year retention period have any real impact on tracking down potential terrorists in the first place.

They say emphasis should instead be placed on tracking known suspects and on improving information sharing among police and security services instead of casting indiscriminate surveillance dragnets that underpins the bill.

Surveillance versus rights

Last year the European Court of Justice ruling outlawed, in a separate crime-fighting EU law, the indiscriminate data collection of people not suspected of any crime.

The point was underlined earlier this month by the EU's main privacy regulatory body, the article 29 working party.

They said EU PNR data processing “is likely to seriously undermine the right to the protection of private life and personal data of all travellers”.

Possible violations of such rights may prompt the EU’s top court to once again reconsider whether the proposed law violates those rights. If it does, the Court may decide to scrap the law altogether.

Fifteen member states have or are in the process of setting up their own PNRs.

Monday’s resolution added an amendment for the European Commission to consider the impact of last year’s Luxembourg court decision and "encourage" member states to come to an agreement on the protracted legislative file on data protection reforms.

But not everyone is happy with the Greens describing the latest twist in the drawn out debate as “a carte blanche to scale-back personal freedoms”.

The centre-right (EPP), the liberals (ALDE), the socialists (S&D), and the conservatives (ECR) all backed the resolution and its amendment.

The breakthrough was orchestrated, in part, by intense pressure from member states following the Paris attacks in January and by lobbying efforts by French interior minster Bernard Cazeneuve.

Schengen and EU summit

Summit leaders are also set to discuss revising the EU’s Schengen borders code. The code sets out minimum and random checks on EU citizens leaving or entering the EU.

The French want the code revised so that everyone is forced to undergo systematic checks as part of a larger effort to crack down on so-called foreign fighters.

“The question is, and this is the big dilemma, whether it is enough to have a more efficient proper implementation of the existing legislative framework or if there is a need for targeted amendments on the Schengen border code," said an EU source.

But systematic checks have received a cool reception from the European commission, which wants member state authorities to make better use of existing tools.

Some national governments are pushing ahead with plans to start invalidating the travel documents of suspected terrorists.

The commission backs the idea and has since modified the EU’s large-scale information system on police and border control, the Schengen information system (SIS), to flag invalidated documents of suspected terrorists.

EU leaders want tighter border controls

EU leaders at a summit on Thursday agreed that there should be tighter controls at the EU's borders and urged MEPs to move forward on an air passenger information bill.

Rights NGOs face fresh threats in EU

While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap