18th May 2022

Brussels could extend anti-terror rules to EU flights

The EU is considering checking the private data of air passengers in a security scheme similar to the controversial US model.

While the scheme is initially to be applied to travellers from third countries heading to Europe, Brussels could at a later stage extend the data controls to intra-EU flights, as well.

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  • Brussels admits that plans to screen passengers between Rome and Berlin may be controversial (Photo: EUobserver)

The plan is to be part of a new list of anti-terror measures to be unveiled by the European Commission in November.

"In the package I will propose to the ministers on 6 November, there will be a proposal to collect passenger data for extra EU flights," Commissioner Franco Frattini, in charge of security issues told a press conference in Slovenia on Thursday (4 October).

But he added that his proposal will "for the moment" not include checking travellers flying within the EU's borders, adding that due to some privacy and Schengen passport-free zone rules, it is "premature" to say if such controls will be introduced later.

"We are evaluating the impact of collection of personal data of passengers for intra-EU flights given also the problem of compatibility with Schengen rules, which guarantee full freedom of movement within the territory of the EU," Mr Frattini said, according to Reuters.

The Schengen passport-free zone consists of 13 "old" EU member states (excluding Britain and Ireland), plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Later this year, it is set to be enlarged by nine countries of the ten 2004 newcomers (except for Cyprus).

The idea of gathering private information on air passengers is based on the system set up by the US after terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001.

The American database on European air passengers currently collects 34 types of data such as names, addresses and credit card numbers, with the possibility of storing data for three and a half years.

The data inflow from airlines to the US authorities was enabled by a deal between Washington and EU member states - strongly criticised by the European Parliament particularly on personal privacy grounds.

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

"We have been dealing with the security of our international partners, first of all the United States. But now it is time to deal with the security of our citizens," the Italian commissioner told journalists on Thursday (4 October).

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