29th May 2022

EU plans air passenger data exchange system

  • Mr Frattini is to unveil the new measures in October (Photo: European Commission)

Just days after failed car bomb attacks in London and at Glasgow Airport in the UK, the European Commission has announced it plans to come with a series of new anti-terrorist measures including an EU-wide air passengers name recording system (PNR).

To be finalised by October, the PNR system would mirror the US' database on European air passengers - currently collecting 34 pieces of personal information on each traveller, with the possibility to store data for three-and-a-half years.

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Under the European scheme, airlines flying passengers to the 27-nation bloc would submit certain data to national security agencies.

"Most terrorist plots involve home-grown radicalised youngsters travelling to and from other parts of the world while going through the radicalisation process", EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said, referring to the terror plot in the UK over the weekend.

"The idea offer to all member states to have a possibility of national PNR [passengers' name record] system and to share the information when relevant", Mr Frattini added, underlining it would be up to each EU government to decide if it wants to participate.

In addition, Brussels plans to criminalize those who place bomb-making instructions on the internet and setting up a rapid alert system on lost and stolen explosives.

Relief at treaty reform

The commissioner also expressed his relief that EU leaders have apparently agreed to end national governments' exclusive power over the sensitive area of police and judicial cooperation.

"I am glad that EU leaders agreed qualified majority voting and - the co-decision procedure - should apply to most justice, freedom and security areas", Mr Frattini said referring to the 21-22 June summit that agreed an outline for a new treaty for the bloc.

The veto has long been a sore point for the commission which has often seen critical pieces of legislation in this area blocked by one country.

Most recently - just days before the June summit - EU justice ministers clashed on whether the bloc should have a common set of minimum rights for criminal suspects. Six malcontents considered the proposal too "far-reaching" and blocked others from moving ahead on this matter.

The new treaty outline allow some member states to opt out of the new extension of EU powers in the area but they cannot block a group of other member states from going ahead.

"I do not like the idea of a two speed Europe but I like even less to see good work blocked due to one or two member states opposing the wishes of the majority", Mr Frattini said.

If the document makes it through the intergovernmental negotiations and ratification process in the entire 27-nation EU, it will enter into force in 2009.

Illustrating general dissatisfaction at how governments transpose EU laws in this area, the commission also published a scoreboard.

The progress in some areas is "slow" and "unacceptable", said Mr Frattini, while his report lists Malta, Greece, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Cyprus, France and the UK as the worst offenders.

The total number of legal steps taken against member states has shown a steady increase - from 100 cases in 2005 to 154 cases in 2006. This year, the number of procedures is expected to reach 170.

EU in no hurry to appoint new anti-terror chief

Despite the recent car bomb plots in the UK and their alleged links to Al-Qaeda, the EU has not rushed to re-appoint a coordinator in the area following the departure in March of the bloc's first man to the job.

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

Hungary turned into 'hybrid regime', MEPs say

The new draft European Parliament report is an update to the 2018 report which triggered the Article 7 procedure against Hungary, a sanctions probe aiming to rein in member states that break EU rules and values.

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