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21st Oct 2018

Brussels attacks new US security demands

The European Commission has poured cold water on a set of security requirements recently tabled by Washington, describing the move as "unacceptable" and going "too far".

"The text is unacceptable. It's just way beyond anything that can be done," Jonathan Faull, the head of the commission's home affairs department, said on Wednesday (13 February), referring to a US-proposed memorandum of understanding distributed to EU capitals.

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The document consists of a series of demands designed to keep better track of who wants to enter US territory.

The wishlist includes in-flight security officers aboard transatlantic flights operated by the US airlines, an electronic travel authorisation system as well as an accord to share further data on air passengers and lost and stolen passports.

Brussels has made it clear that it dislikes being a passive observer of the ongoing process, with Washington discussing the new measures bilaterally with each EU government.

"We don't negotiate matters which are dealt with in Washington with the state of California - that would be disrespectful and we expect the US to be similarly respectful of our law and system here," Mr Faull told journalists.

"The USA knows perfectly well that there are some things you come to Brussels to talk about," he stressed, pointing to the passenger name records (PNR) deal between the United States and the European Union as a whole.

According to the director general, such issues would include the recent US demand to extend the passenger data system to information on air passengers flying over its territory but not landing there. Under the current accord, US security authorities collect 19 pieces of data on European air passengers, except when the travellers are just flying over the US.

Another matter, which Brussels believes should be dealt with at a multilateral level, includes re-admission or repatriation agreements.

"I hope that everything will come into place by the end of this week," Mr Faull said.

However, some member states are in favour of signing up to additional security measures, hoping it will ease their way to a visa-free travel to the United States. The Czech Republic and Estonia seem the most eager to agree to bilateral deals.

"I am happy that we have found a common stand regarding the memorandum," Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in a statement on Tuesday (12 February), adding that a final agreement is expected to be struck by the end of this month.

The EU's executive body, for its part, said it plans to discuss these issues in next few days, with a "very clear intention of getting a common position from EU member states" to be shared with Washington.

It has also reiterated its frustration over visa requirements imposed on twelve EU countries, with Mr Faull saying "we have been extremely patient and we have not imposed a visa obligation on any category of US citizens, but our patience cannot last forever."

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