Wednesday

26th Apr 2017

EU to collect data of international air travellers

  • Police in member states will have access to tourists' personal data (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Air travellers going in and out of the EU may soon have to give their personal details to national authorities in the member state of departure or arrival, if proposals set to be put forward by the EU commission on Wednesday are approved by governments and the European Parliament.

Under the proposal, all passengers flying for instance from Brussels to Istanbul will have their "Passenger Name Record" (PNR) data – including home address, mobile phone number, credit card information and email address – checked by a special unit of the Belgian police. Any suspected links with terrorism or serious crime – such as drug trafficking or people smuggling – will be shared with other member states and the suspects may be prevented from flying or even arrested.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Intra-EU flights, from Rome to Athens or Tallinn to Warsaw, will not be covered for now, but the commission is likely to propose that such a step may be taken into consideration in a few years' time, if member states so require. This may clash with British desires – especially given the Olympic Games to be hosted in London in 2012 – to have an EU-wide system covering flights from one member state to another as well.

France, Denmark and Estonia are also supporting this idea, but are not as pushy as Britain, while Germany is expected to be more reluctant to have another massive data collection up and running in the EU. The Netherlands is in principle in favour of the EU system, but is focusing on a solution that would not cost companies and governments too much and that should be acceptable from a civil liberties and data protection point of view.

Apart from the various positions of member states, the European Parliament – so far a strong defender of data protection and civil liberties - will also have an equal footing in the negotiations which are expected to last two years.

"We are sceptical about the absolute necessity of a European system of flight data storage," German centre-right MEP Manfred Weber told this website.

The conservative politician, who specialises in justice and home affairs, predicted rocky negotiations with the European Parliament: "So far, the US and other countries using the PNR system have failed to convince us about its necessity. It would be much more important to connect the existing databases in various member states, for instance in an EU-wide anti-terrorism warning system."

"There are deficits in the usage of current data. So why should we collect even more mass data?" he asked.

With other data systems such as the EU emission trading records being recently hacked and sold on the black market, the collection of new private and credit card information poses additional questions.

Another area of concern for MEPs is the sharing of this data on EU citizens and travellers to the 27 member states. Currently, airlines flying into and over the US have to provide the American authorities will all PNR data of their passengers, under an agreement which is in force but still pending the approval of the European Parliament. Negotiations on a new deal have started, with MEPs again asking for concrete evidence that this program is really necessary.

Speaking to Brussels journalists on Tuesday, a US official said that 1800 persons were denied entry into the US in 2008, based on PNR data linking them to terrorist cells or organised crime rings. The official, requesting anonymity, declined however to say how many of those cases were finalised with a conviction in court. The figure is also very small compared to the over 80 million people flying into the US every year.

But the US government still makes the case for the "usefulness" of the program, even if the 72 hour-period prior to departure that authorities have to identify potential terrorists proved insufficient both for the 2009 Christmas bomber and the New York car bomb attacker who also flew into the US a few months before.

Independent Austrian MEP Martin Ehrenhauser, whose inquiry into another EU-US data transfer program (Swift) proved that intra-EU banking transactions are also forwarded to the US, despite assurances of the contrary, said the EU is simply not standing for the civil liberties and freedom it is preaching.

"Everyone now is a potential terrorist. This data collection is totally ridiculous. I feel like not flying at all anymore," Mr Ehrenhauser told EUobserver.

"Freedom is core to the EU and it should stand firm to demands of collecting everything we can get," he added.

European states still top media freedom list

Nordic countries Norway, Sweden and Finland still have the world's most free media, according to Reporters Without Borders, but the overall situation is declining.

EU scrambles meeting over border chaos

The European Commission has called for a meeting this week with EU state experts, following border chaos after the launch of new rules that require systematic checks of EU citizens at the Schengen zone's external borders.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament moves to lift Le Pen's immunity
  2. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's university law
  3. Scots slowly losing appetite for independence - poll
  4. Council of Europe puts Turkey on watch list
  5. EU to put parental leave on political agenda
  6. Israel cancels German meeting over human rights groups
  7. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  8. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. Power struggle in Greenland: Three reasons why the EU should care
  2. Nordic and Baltic countries step up digitalisation efforts
  3. European states still top media freedom list
  4. Let’s not put European public health at risk
  5. Threatened Budapest university calls for EU support
  6. Orban set to face down EU threats
  7. Dont expect 'quick fix' in Syria, China tells EU
  8. Russische schwarze Kassen bedrohen EU Demokratie

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society
  2. European Free AllianceAutonomia to Normalnosc - Poland Urged to Re-Grant Autonomy to Silesia
  3. UNICEFHitting Rock Bottom - How 2016 Became the Worst Year for #ChildrenofSyria
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  6. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  7. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  8. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  9. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  11. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  12. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal