25th Apr 2018

Mexico-EU data dispute puts airlines at risk of sanctions

  • EU-based airlines flew 6,513 flights to Mexico in 2014 (Photo: Kitty Terwolbeck)

The EU has less than two weeks to sort a three-year old data dispute with Mexico or European air carriers risk $30,000 fines for every flight to the country.

Mexico wants European airlines to hand over the personal details of their passengers – known as passenger name records (PNR) - to government authorities.

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.

PNR includes sensitive information like credit card numbers and what type a meal a person eats on a flight. Mexico’s government wants the data to profile possible terrorists and criminals.

But the lack of a bilateral legal framework at the EU level and the outstanding issue over privacy means Mexico has been forced to derogate its law on three separate occasions.

Mexico has now imposed a 1 April deadline or carriers will face financial sanctions of up to $30,000 per flight if they do not comply and transfer the required passenger data.

“They’ve made it absolutely clear that there will be no further postponement,” Viktoria Vajnai, a PNR expert at the Brussels-based Association of European Airlines, told this website.

Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Air Berlin, Iberia as well as other UK and German based charter carriers are at the greatest risk. These airlines make up 85 percent of Mexico’s aviation market.

Last month, they flew 508 flights to the country. In 2014, the total was 6,513 flights, according to Eurocontrol.

Natasha Bertaud, spokesperson for the European commission, told EUobserver earlier this week that they are in contact with Mexico, the airlines, and national data protection authorities to help sort out the dispute.

“At this stage, there is still no clarity on the position that is or will be taken by national data protection authorities. It is up to them to decide whether to allow, or not, the airlines to transfer PNR data,” she said.

EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is also in talks with his Mexican counterpart.

“It is essential that the solution should be a European one,” added Bertaud.

Mexico is not the only country demanding PNR data from European airlines. But it is the only one currently threatening sanctions.

South Korea has been asking for the same data since 2007. Some 20 countries, including Argentina, Japan, and Turkey are also keen on getting the data.

So far, the European commission has signed off on PNR agreements with Australia, Canada, and the United States.

"It should come as no surprise to the EU that having put three PNR agreements in place that other countries now want the same,” said Tony Bunyan, director of London-based civil liberties group Statewatch, in a statement.

"Reaching agreement on new PNR deals, which meet EU data protection standards, is on past evidence going to take years especially for countries whose democratic standards and privacy laws may be questionable," he added.

Last year, the European Court of Justice voided a crime-busting EU data retention law on grounds of disproportionate data collection of people not suspected of any crime.

Privacy advocates point to the Court's ruling and argue PNR systems lack the adequate safeguards needed to ensure governments don’t abuse the data.

Those concerns were heightened following media disclosures of US-led mass surveillance on EU citizens.

The Luxembourg court ruling, along with the European Parliament’s rejection of an EU-wide PNR system in 2013, has complicated efforts by the European Commission to deal with the demands of countries like Mexico.

The parliament has since asked the commission to clarify how an EU-wide PNR system can work within the bounds of the Court's judgment on data retention.

Frans Timmermans, the European commission vice-president, in a letter addressed earlier last month to European parliament president Martin Schulz, made the case for PNR.

Timmermans said the data "reveals, in principle, less about that person's privacy than having his or her phone calls or internet connections registered" and less indiscriminate because it only affects people who take international flights.

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.


Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack

Immediately after Orban's landslide victory in April, a list of so-called 'Soros mercenaries' was published by pro-government media. Those on it - mostly human rights defenders, activists and Orban critics - are now anxious but vow to continue.


'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole

Project Safte, an international research project funded by the European Commission, has revealed a loophole in the EU firearms directive that is being exploited by criminals and possibly terrorists.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  5. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  8. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  9. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  10. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  11. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  12. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan