Massive majority in European Parliament against deal with US on access to passenger data

On 12 March 2003 the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg passed a highly critical Resolution on the deal agreed between the European Commission and the USA on access to personal details of airline passengers. The vote was 414 in favour and only 44 against.

Below are i) the verbatim report on the debate (in the original languages); ii) the text of the Resolution agreed at the Special session of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights on 10 March and iii) the amendments to it agreed by the plenary session.

1.The report adopted by the Committee on Citizens' Rights and Freedoms on 10 March 2003: Text

2.The amendments agreed at plenary to above report: no 1, no 2, no 3, no 4

Verbatim report on the debate in the plenary session in the European Parliament

Transfer of personal data by airlines to the US immigration service

Patten, Commission. - Mr President, if you agree, as indicated on the board, this Commissioner - who is less knowledgeable than his colleague - could begin the debate and then my colleague Commissioner Bolkestein will continue, as this issue touches on both our competencies. I repeat what I said at the outset of the previous debate, and offer my apologies to Parliament that I will have to leave early, though my distinguished colleague will be here until the end of the debate. I explained in the last debate that I am due to fly to Croatia and Belgrade later this afternoon and, not least because of the tragic events today, I know that Parliament will understand that.

Let me now turn to the business in hand. The Aviation and Security Act, passed by the US Congress on 19 November 2001, is one of a series of laws introduced in the United States after 11 September 2001, with one overriding aim: to enhance national security, in particular through transport security measures. The basic aim is to prevent terrorist acts by detecting potential perpetrators before they enter the country.

In this context, the United States Congress has required that carriers make passenger name record information available to US Customs upon request.

The Commission shares the security concerns of the United States. Nevertheless, the United States measures have raised concern with regard to the respect of Community and Member States™ laws on data protection. Airlines operating flights across the Atlantic risked being caught between two sets of incompatible measures and suffering severe losses as a result of penalties the United States threatened to impose, including fines and even the withdrawal of landing rights. Passengers (between 10 and 11 million a year) would have also suffered from the disrupted air traffic and from the time-consuming 'secondary' checks that the United States planned to introduce at point of entry. Moreover, airlines not in compliance risked being seen as higher security risks, with potential consequences for significant falls in passenger numbers.

The stakes, therefore, were very high and the consequences of not acting would have been extremely serious. We had to ensure, as far as we could, that the important interests of European Union citizens in preserving their right to privacy was balanced against the need to protect many thousands of jobs in our airlines and associated industries like travel agencies. I want to assure this House that, right from the outset, the European Commission has done its utmost to try to engage the United States in a discussion on how to find a solution compatible with both sets of legislation and one that would ensure legal certainty for all concerned.

The European Commission has assumed its responsibilities and in recent weeks undertook difficult discussions to overcome a stalemate created by the United States initially taking our concerns lightly and not responding to our questions.

In fact, the European Commission had raised this issue with the United States on numerous occasions, with particular emphasis since the US Customs Service issued its interim rule of 19 June 2002, containing the concrete implementation methods. As a result of these efforts by the Commission, the United States first postponed the entry into force of the new requirements until 5 February and then agreed to waive the imposition of penalties on non-complying airlines until 5 March.

Following a high-level meeting on 17-18 February on access to personal data contained in passenger name records, both sides issued a joint statement which sets out the steps that need to be taken to reach a mutually satisfactory and legally certain solution to this issue.

Further talks took place on 4 March, as a result of which the United States has given additional undertakings with respect to the handling and protection of sensitive data.

I am also aware that questions have been raised as to the legal basis for the action undertaken so far by the Commission. This, as my colleague Commissioner Bolkestein will explain in more detail, seems to be founded on a misunderstanding. There has been no 'agreement' and no 'decision' so far. Instead, we have engaged with the United States authorities in an intensive dialogue aimed at obtaining the necessary guarantees regarding the proper handling and use of the data concerned by the US side.

Both sides are now committed to continuing their discussions in order to find a more legally secure solution. The possibility of such discussions is provided for in the Data Protection Directive, as the initial and necessary steps towards the adequacy finding provided for in its Article 25(6). Following comitology procedures, the draft Commission decision will then have to be discussed by this House before being finalised.

In the interim, we have obtained from the United States a provisional set of undertakings on how they will protect the personal data they access and a specific commitment not to make use of any sensitive data for profiling purposes.

Before passing the debate to my distinguished colleague to provide honourable Members with further details on this issue, I would like to ask this House to recognise the considerable efforts made by the Commission and the positive results we have achieved so far - even if these still have to be finalised - and I hope Parliament will join forces with us in obtaining from the United States the necessary data protection guarantees for European citizens so that a permanent solution to the problem can be achieved.

I should like to make one final personal remark. The whole House recognises how the events of 11 September produced a real feeling of vulnerability and shock in the United States. The House will recognise the concern in the United States to put in place measures to ensure that further terrorist attacks are less, rather than more, likely in the future. Like a number of honourable Members, I come from a country which has also had to take steps to deal with terrorist threats. That said, I hope that we can engage the United States at a much earlier stage in the policy-making process in discussing these security issues. If we can have a dialogue earlier in the process, it will be easier to avoid the sort of political difficulties that we have had from time to time over the last year. There should be no difference between us at all on the importance of putting in place security measures which are recognised as being reasonable by both sides. It would be easier to do that if we could talk more openly and earlier about these sorts of measures.

President. - Commissioner, I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that it was not the intention of the Chair to exclude you from taking the floor. However, we were informed that owing to constraints of time you had to leave earlier.

Bolkestein, Commission. - Mr President, I should like to add the following to what Commissioner Patten has just said.

The new American law requiring airlines operating flights to, from or through the United States to grant electronic access to their passenger name records raises a number of policy issues: firstly, the fight against terrorism; secondly, the right to privacy; thirdly, the ability of our airlines to compete; fourthly, the security and convenience of legitimate air travellers; fifthly, the relationship between Europe and the United States in general.

It is necessary to pull all these strands together and to strike an appropriate balance. It is also necessary to be practical and not theoretical. My first message is that we should work together for an outcome that achieves the best possible results, responding to the need to combat terrorism while respecting data protection in practice, without damaging the commercial interests of our airlines and without inconvenience for legitimate air travellers.

The Commission very much welcomes the opportunity to address Parliament on this matter. Underlying the technical issues are some fundamental questions about security and civil liberties which all democracies have to ask themselves. Discussions amongst elected parliamentarians on such issues is essential.

The motion for a resolution before Parliament criticises the Commission for not informing and consulting Parliament sooner. The Commission accepts this reprimand. It had no intention to conceal. It was more a question of when to bring this matter to the attention of Parliament and in what form.

We only have a short time. Rather than making a lengthy factual statement I will draw the attention of Parliament to two documents which the Commission has made available.

The first document is the joint statement which is the agreed account of the outcome of talks between senior officials of the Commission and US Customs on 17 and 18 February 2003. The second document is the statement by US Customs of 4 March which gives undertakings as regards the handling of sensitive data.

It is necessary to correct a misunderstanding. As my distinguished colleague Commissioner Patten has just said, many reports referred to an agreement or a decision. I stress that there is no agreement, there is no decision. It follows that, at this moment, there is no legal basis. There have been discussions and the US side has given certain assurances. This is the first step in the process. Both sides are committed to finding a more legally secure solution in due course. These discussions are necessary.

Why are they necessary? Because of information received about new US requirements, the Commission found it necessary last November to inform EU airlines and the related reservation systems that it was not clear whether they could provide the information required by US law without being in breach of their data protection obligations under EU law. In order to answer that question, it was necessary to obtain information from the US side, in particular as regards the use of the data and the conditions under which they would be processed.

Unfortunately the American side was very slow to respond to these requests for information and they only started to take our concerns seriously in December 2002 last year. In the absence of discussions with the United States, the airlines - as Commissioner Patten has already explained - would have been left in an impossible situation. They would have faced a whole range of penalties, starting with the practice of secondary inspections of arriving passengers. That indeed had already started. That meant very long delays at arrival points for hundreds, if not thousands, of legitimate travellers.

That is an option, but is it what we really want? It is certainly not what the airlines wanted, and there was every likelihood that these airlines would have complied with American requirements anyway.

I strongly agree with Members who expressed the view in the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs on Monday that the American way of proceeding by unilateral action and threats of penalties is unacceptable. But not having discussions with the American side would have left them with the data and no means for the European Union side to influence their handling of it. It would have left the airlines open to either US or Member States' enforcement action when they - the airlines - are the wrong target.

If we want to bring pressure to bear it should be on those who can deliver a solution - and that is not the airlines. Our aim has thus been to open up a process of dialogue through which we can influence US practices and obtain assurances from them that will ensure that data is adequately protected.

The Commission considers that the outcome of the February talks was positive for data protection for the following two reasons. Firstly, we secured US agreement on the further steps to be taken to reach a mutually satisfactory solution that would and can provide legal certainty to all concerned. The second reason is that the United States made a number of significant, unilateral undertakings of immediate application. For example they made undertakings on what data they would not use and how they would handle the data they do use. They confirmed in particular that their data gathering would be limited to flights to, from or through the US.

Clearly we need more time and information from the United States before we can say that we have a solution. We can only be satisfied when we have an arrangement which provides a maximum amount of legal security for all concerned. There are in the meantime transfers of data. Are such transfers legal? Only the courts can answer that question in a definitive way, but I would like to make two points in this respect.

Firstly, the airlines have to meet their obligations as data controllers and they must inform passengers fully, in line with Article 10 of the Directive, and obtain their consent for the processing of sensitive data in line with Article 8.

Secondly, legality has to be examined from the angle of the need for adequate protection for data that is transferred to a third country. Transfers may however benefit from one of the exceptions in Article 26(1) of the Directive. For example, 'certain transfers may be necessary in order to fulfil a contract with a data subject', in other words the contract to fly the passenger to the United States - but since such an exception could be challenged, this solution lacks legal security. Moreover, although exceptions may be legal for specific transfers they offer no guarantees that the data will subsequently be protected.

Article 25(6) of the Directive, on the other hand, provides for a finding by the Commission that a third country ensures adequate protection for transfers of personal data from the European Union. An Article 25(6) decision by the Commission is therefore much to be preferred to relying on the exceptions to the adequacy rule because it means that the data go on being protected. The prospect of such a decision and the legal security that it brings allow the Commission to engage the third country concerned in discussions about the protection provided, and hold it to ensuring a high standard.

Moreover, Article 25(6) decisions always contain safeguard clauses which can be triggered if protection does not in practice match up to the standards expected. They can also be unilaterally abrogated if necessary.

Finally, an Article 25(6) decision is a Community procedure, producing a result that is binding on all Member States. It is very much to be preferred to leaving Member States to act in dispersed order. It is worth mentioning that one or two Member States have or are planning measures very similar to those in place in the United States.

On my own behalf and also on behalf of my colleague Mr Patten, I should like to invite the House to take a positive view of the Commission's actions of 17 and 18 February. The American side has committed itself to a process which recognises our legitimate interest in their data protection practices, under which they subject their arrangements to our scrutiny according to our standards. That I think is a major step forward. Of course the United States still must provide the elements needed for the Commission to make such an adequacy finding.

As a comitology decision, an adequacy finding under Article 25(6) is always brought to Parliament before being finalised, as was also explained by Mr Patten. I certainly look forward to discussing this further with Members of Parliament on a future occasion.

Hernández Mollar (PPE-DE). - Señor Presidente, quiero agradecer la declaración de los dos Comisarios y señalo que al Sr. Bolkestein le honra aceptar la reprimenda que, como él mismo dice, le hemos dado a la Comisión. Pero lo cierto es que estamos ante un debate que debería haberse producido mucho antes del 5 de marzo, fecha de la entrada en vigor de las medidas que los Estados Unidos han adoptado para que las compañías aéreas que realizan vuelos desde la Unión Europea hacia ese país cumplan las obligaciones impuestas por la legislación americana de transmitir a los servicios de inmigración, como aquí se ha dicho, los datos personales de los viajeros y que, en caso de incumplimiento, se puedan ver sometidas a fuertes sanciones pecuniarias.

Nosotros también compartimos, señor Patten, la preocupación norteamericana después de lo acaecido el 11 de septiembre, pero también hemos de decir que es nuestra obligación exigir el cumplimiento de la legislación europea, concretamente de la Directiva 95/46/CE, que protege la transmisión y utilización de los datos personales -en este caso, cerca de 11 millones de pasajeros que cada año realizan vuelos transatlánticos- y que incluso determina, en el apartado 6 del artículo 25, un procedimiento específico para la transmisión de los datos a terceros países, que, en esta ocasión, señores Comisarios, nosotros creemos que se ha incumplido.

Naturalmente, también tenemos el deber de proteger los intereses de las compañías aéreas que, por una parte, han de cumplir con las obligaciones impuestas por la legislación norteamericana y, por otra, respetar los principios de la legislación comunitaria, y que en la situación actual se encuentran en un estado de incertidumbre.

Por ello, señor Comisario, permítame que, en primer lugar, le manifieste el malestar de este Parlamento por la tardía reacción, desde el punto de vista de mi comisión, en afrontar esta cuestión y que nos lleva también a dudar incluso de la legalidad de las actuaciones reflejadas en la Declaración conjunta que funcionarios de la Unión Europea y del Servicio de Aduanas de los Estados Unidos adoptaron los días 17 y 18 de febrero.

En esta Declaración, señor Presidente, señores Comisarios, se llega incluso -a mí me parece que esto es sorprendente- a hacer una excepción a la aplicación de nuestra legislación ante los requerimientos de los Estados Unidos. Me pregunto cómo se puede hacer esto.

Por otra parte, lo cierto es que las autoridades nacionales para la protección de datos en la Unión tienen las manos atadas en estos momentos, puesto que, en caso de queja de los pasajeros, han de aplicar las directivas europeas en vigor y están obligadas a imponer sanciones a las compañías aéreas. Se hace, pues, necesario salir rápidamente de esta situación de incertidumbre, definiendo un marco claro de actuaciones, compatibilizando las exigencias legítimas de los Estados Unidos con el respeto de la legislación europea.

Por este hecho, es necesario que el diálogo mantenido hasta ahora en los servicios de las administraciones sea trasladado con urgencia, en virtud de la transparencia exigida, a los representantes políticos de las instituciones y que, en un plazo breve, se encuentren fórmulas que permitan una definición clara de los datos que deben transferirse, así como de las condiciones de su tratamiento por las agencias de los Estados Unidos. Se hace absolutamente necesario, al mismo tiempo, informar a los ciudadanos de que sus datos puedan ser transferidos y obtener, en su caso, su consentimiento, ya que ello, señores Comisarios, está impuesto por las normas comunitarias.

Señores Comisarios, la situación ideal es que las autoridades norteamericanas puedan definir rápidamente los estándares de protección de datos, cuya adopción está ya prevista por su legislación, y que la Comisión pueda, en consecuencia, declarar que los datos necesarios puedan ser transferidos en las condiciones impuestas por la legislación comunitaria, lo que es, a su vez, una exigencia impuesta también por el artículo 7 de nuestra Carta de Derechos Fundamentales.

Por tanto, invito a los Comisarios competentes a recuperar el tiempo perdido y aprovecho -y lo hago también en nombre de la comisión que me honro en presidir-, la disponibilidad de la Comisión para examinar con toda la atención y urgencia necesarias los textos que nos sean sometidos sobre la base de la Directiva 95/46/CE. También nos gustaría estar informados, desde hoy mismo, de todos los contactos y fases de su negociación, no cuando la decisión esté ya a punto de adoptarse, para poder cooperar y colaborar con la Comisión, como aquí se nos ha requerido.


Paciotti (PSE). - Signor Presidente, concordo pienamente con quello che ha detto l'onorevole Hernández Mollar. Noi siamo consapevoli delle esigenze di sicurezza degli Stati Uniti, ma, signori Commissari, è la Carta dei diritti fondamentali dell'Unione, che la Commissione si è impegnata a rispettare, che sancisce il diritto fondamentale alla protezione dei dati personali ed è la direttiva del '95, proposta dalla Commissione e da noi approvata, che prevede le regole per la protezione di quei dati. Tale direttiva prevede che la Commissione, attraverso una procedura specificata e prevista, accerti se il paese terzo offre una protezione adeguata ai dati dei nostri cittadini che sono lì trasferiti, e se così non è, avvii negoziati, trovi i rimedi e sottoponga l'accertamento al vaglio del Parlamento europeo.

Ora, in questo nostro caso, la trasmissione dei dati personali dei passeggeri da parte delle compagnie aeree che operano verso gli Stati Uniti, che è stata richiesta dalle autorità statunitensi in base a leggi del 2001 e del 2002, presenta seri problemi di compatibilità con la normativa europea, soprattutto per quanto riguarda la previsione di un accesso diretto, da parte del servizio doganale americano, ai sistemi di prenotazione e ai registri dei nomi dei passeggeri delle nostre compagnie aeree.

Sottolineo, fra l'altro, che i dati acquisibili potrebbero contenere anche informazioni di natura finanziaria o di carattere medico, religioso o etnico, che potrebbero riguardare anche persone diverse dai passeggeri diretti nel territorio statunitense - in base a quell'accesso diretto -, che i dati possono essere trasferiti ad altri enti, senza il consenso e il controllo degli interessati, e che la normativa statunitense tutela solo i cittadini americani.

Ora, in questa situazione, la Commissione ha omesso di informare il Parlamento - lo ha riconosciuto - ha omesso di informare i cittadini europei prima dell'entrata in vigore, il 5 marzo, degli obblighi previsti per le compagnie aeree e non ha tempestivamente eseguito il doveroso accertamento dell'esistenza della protezione adeguata, ma ha affidato a dichiarazioni di funzionari, a comunicati stampa la promessa e la rassicurazione su futuri interventi.

In questo modo, un diritto fondamentale dei cittadini europei è attualmente a rischio. Le compagnie aeree e le autorità nazionali garanti dei dati personali sono messe in una situazione di incertezza giuridica, esposte a ricorsi per violazione di leggi nazionali o a rischi di gravi danni economici. I Commissari competenti devono assumersi tempestivamente le loro responsabilità, devono ottenere una temporanea sospensione degli effetti delle norme in atto, devono chiedere garanzie formali e verificabili, ottenere i pareri previsti dalle direttive e sottoporre una decisione, ai sensi dell'articolo 25 della direttiva, al Parlamento europeo. In caso contrario, io credo che il Parlamento europeo dovrà valutare se ricorrere alla Corte di giustizia per assicurare tutela ai cittadini dell'Europa.

Ludford (ELDR). - Mr President, Commissioner Bolkestein invited us to take a positive view of the Commission's action in the 17 February joint statement. I am sure the Commission was motivated by a genuine desire to rescue European airlines from being stuck between a rock and a hard place, in that if they complied with Community law on data protection they would be grounded and refused US landing rights, whereas if they gave into US demands they would fall foul of data protection authorities. However, the Commission made the wrong call, not least in consulting neither the European Parliament nor, previously, the National Data Protection Commissioners' Article 29 Working Party.

It is disingenuous to try to claim that it is not an agreement. It is called a joint statement and it is also referred to in the text as an understanding of both sides which will be implemented. That, in plain English, is surely an agreement. However, it does not deliver legal certainty and the Chairman of the Article 29 Working Party has contested the assertion by the Commission that EU data protection authorities may not find it necessary to take enforcement actions - that is for breaches of the Data Protection Directive - against airlines complying with the US requirements. This is a stunning rebuff to the Commission. He said in essence that National Data Protection Commissioners and courts were not free to suspend application of relevant laws just on the say-so of the Commission. That must be right. It is a reminder to the Commission that if it will not be the guardian of Community law, then others have to be.

The political groups are in wide agreement on this matter. The only point of contention is the amendment calling for the Commission to secure suspension of the US demands until there is a decision on compatibility with the Data Protection Directive, which means an Article 25(6) decision. The PPE-DE Group has not signed this amendment, and I understand they believe it would leave the airlines exposed. However, the Article 29 Working Party has stated that they are exposed anyway to sanction for breach of data protection legislation. Therefore it is academic.

The text of the statement makes it quite clear that the Data Protection Directive applies, because it states that US customs will access the data in the territory of the Community.

The basic problem is that the US has no data protection laws. This is a problem for the Europol Agreement and the EU-US Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement. There is huge concern about the balance between security and civil liberties being tipped too far towards security in the United States. In the light of various apparent miscarriages of justice recently in the States, the lack of control on use of data by other law enforcement agencies is of great concern. We need an Article 25(6) decision after consultation of this House. The Commission may have tried its best, but it did the wrong thing.

... (intervention en grècque)

Buitenweg (Verts/ALE). - Dank u wel, Voorzitter. Voorzitter, het recht op privacy is niet heilig, het is een grondrecht maar daarop kunnen inbreuken worden gepleegd als er zwaarwegende belangen in het geding zijn, als het effectief is, als het proportioneel is en als er waarborgen zijn tegen misbruik. Nou, ik kan alvast tegen de Commissie zeggen dat chantage door een derde land of lange wachttijden bij het vliegverkeer wat mij betreft niet onder zwaarwegende belangen vallen. Dat zal toch echt anders opgelost moeten worden.

Privacy is geen hinderpaal, maar een essentieel onderdeel van veiligheid. Een onzorgvuldige omgang met de privacy van onze burgers zet het basisvertrouwen van de mensen in hun overheid en in de rechtsstaat, op de tocht en dan zijn we een stuk verder van huis. Het is voor mijn fractie logisch dat de Verenigde Staten willen weten wie hun grondgebied betreedt en in verband hiermee kunnen we natuurlijk ook praten over het uitwisselen van gegevens. Maar dan moeten er ook afspraken worden gemaakt over welke gegevens we uitwisselen, welke autoriteiten er toegang toe hebben en hoe lang ze bewaard mogen blijven.

De Amerikaanse douane mag de gegevens doorspelen aan andere autoriteiten die zich bezighouden met de bestrijding van terrorisme. Maar Voorzitter, de interesse van Amerikaanse zijde in de persoonlijke gegevens van de vliegtuigpassagiers kan niet los worden gezien van hun inspanningen om tot een Global Computer Surveillance System te komen. De Verenigde Staten willen, zoals mijn collega hiervoor al heeft gezegd, wereldwijd het reispatroon van burgers, hun kredietkaartaankopen, enzovoort in kaart brengen.

Nu is de Commissie helemaal blij omdat de Amerikanen plechtig hebben beloofd om gegevens over religie en gezondheid niet te gebruiken. Wat betekent dat nou? Betekent het dat ze dan wel toegang hebben tot die gegevens, maar dat ze gewoon hebben beloofd dat ze deze niet gaan gebruiken? Commissaris, gelooft u nu werkelijk dat als de Amerikaanse autoriteiten deze gegevens hebben en als zij denken dat het zinnig is voor hun systeem, ze deze dan ook echt niet gaan gebruiken? Ook maaltijdvoorkeuren kunnen iets zeggen over een persoon. Ik eet zelf al sinds jaar en dag vegetarisch, ook in vliegtuigen. Nou, dat wordt nu dus allemaal geregistreerd en geanaliseerd. Voor mensen die dat niet willen, had een woordvoerder van de Europese Commissie nog een goed advies. "The choice is clear", zei hij, "either you do not go to the United States, or you go for the sandwich option". Onderschrijft de Commissaris dit advies en vindt u het ook zo enorm geestig?

Op zichzelf past het wel bij uw liberale opmerking van daarstraks, dat passagiers vooral goed geïnformeerd moeten worden over gevoelige informatie die over hen wordt vergaard. Nou zijn kleine lettertjes op een vliegtuigticket één ding, maar hebben passagiers echt een reële andere optie? Ook dat zou ik graag van u willen vernemen.

Voorzitter, ik sluit me voor de rest aan bij veel commentaar van mijn collega's over de precieze technische en juridische problemen hiermee. Ook wij van onze kant zeggen dat het uitwisselen van gegevens per direct moet worden gestopt. Europese regels gelden hier op het Europees continent en als we afspraken gaan maken over het veranderen van die regels, dan moet ook de partner waarmee we die afspraken maken onze regels, onze uitgangsprincipes respecteren. Zo gaat het in een partnerschap tussen goedwillende landen. Dank u wel.

Cappato (NI). - Signor Commissario, innanzitutto mi soffermo sulla procedura: lei dice che non si tratta di un atto legislativo, di un atto comunitario. Il problema è che ci pare quantomeno possibile che da quell'atto, da quelle dichiarazioni congiunte - prima quelle di febbraio, poi quelle di marzo - siano derivati effetti giuridici, azioni, scambi di dati e di informazioni che sono stati effettuati in ragione di quegli incontri e di quelle dichiarazioni.

Già nella dichiarazione comune rilasciata dalle due parti a febbraio si parla del fatto che i dati di natura più sensibile devono venire processati - e lo sono - in conformità con la legislazione dell'Unione europea. Questa affermazione è anche una valutazione delle modalità di trasferimento dei dati, una valutazione conclusiva, ha un valore normativo e, di fatto, serve a legittimare uno scambio di dati che già è esistito; così come la raccomandazione - al paragrafo 4 - della Commissione alle autorità di protezione dei dati nazionali, secondo la quale non è necessario prendere misure di enforcement contro le linee aeree che si trovino a non adempiere alle richieste degli Stati Uniti. Questa è un'altra raccomandazione che ha un valore e un effetto legislativo: la Commissione dice "non intervenite!" sulle linee aeree che si trovino a trasferire dati in conformità con la legislazione americana.

Io credo che, quindi, esistano quantomeno la possibilità e il dubbio che questo atto debba essere equiparato ad un atto legislativo, contro il quale il Parlamento può far ricorso alla Corte di giustizia. Credo anche che questa procedura potrebbe aiutare la stessa Commissione e la stessa Unione europea a rafforzare la propria posizione in un dialogo che dev'essere condotto a pari livello, tra pari grado, tra un mercato di 250 milioni di persone e un mercato di 350 milioni di persone, perché occorre prendere in considerazione molto seriamente il fatto che, già oggi, la raccolta di questi dati e il loro trasferimento negli Stati Uniti non possono rispettare la legislazione comunitaria.

Al contrario di quello che è stato detto dalla Commissione nelle dichiarazioni congiunte, la raccolta di dati fatta su dati che hanno dei fini commerciali e vengono poi utilizzati a fini di sicurezza o di intelligence configura, di per sé, una violazione del principio di necessità e del principio di proporzionalità, inclusi nella legislazione comunitaria. Si crea, di fatto, una situazione di cosiddetta sorveglianza generalizzata, che è contraria alla legislazione comunitaria, non che potrebbe essere contraria o che dovremmo verificare che è contraria.

Quindi, il problema è aprire delle negoziazioni formali, ufficiali, per vedere che accordo, che compromesso possa essere trovato, ma non è possibile risolvere la questione preventivamente, legittimando così, di fatto, un trasferimento di dati che è già iniziato. Questa è la ragione per la quale questo Parlamento deve proseguire su questa strada, credo anche proprio per dare più forza alla Commissione e alle Istituzioni comunitarie.

... (intervention en grècque)

Terrón i Cusí (PSE). - Señor Presidente, señores Comisarios, este Parlamento ha reaccionado después de una llamada de atención de procedencia tan seria como el Presidente del Comité del artículo 29 que se dirige al Presidente Prodi, al Presidente Simitis y al Presidente Hernández Mollar. La Comisión nos dice en cambio que estamos ante algunos malentendidos. He de decir que, después de la aclaración de los malentendidos, estoy aún más preocupada.

Vengo de un Estado miembro que sabe que hay que establecer medidas contra el terrorismo, pero que sabe también -y muy bien- que debe hacerse en el estricto margen del respeto a la legalidad y al Derecho si no queremos dar una ulterior victoria a los terroristas.

Efectivamente, usted nos dice que las compañías aéreas están siendo presionadas por la acción de la Administración de Estados Unidos, en el sentido de que las obliga a vulnerar la legislación europea. Las compañías aéreas tienen derecho, en este caso, a ser protegidas por sus autoridades, como lo tienen, por descontado, los ciudadanos de la Unión.

Nos dice el Sr. Comisario que no ha habido un acuerdo o una decisión y que, por lo tanto, no hay base jurídica. Señor Comisario, exactamente de esto nos estamos quejando, exactamente es la pregunta que hacemos: ¿qué es lo que se ha hecho para dar la impresión a los Estados Unidos de que podían emprender una acción unilateral por su parte? ¿Qué hemos hecho para que esto haya sucedido?

Usted nos invita a leer en positivo lo que ha hecho la Comisión porque nos dice que hay que ver de modo equilibrado la protección de datos -derecho reconocido por la Carta de los Derechos Fundamentales- y la pérdida de puestos de trabajo o las penalidades que puedan sufrir las compañías.

Sinceramente, esto me parece la admisión de un chantaje. Estoy ante una situación que me sorprende. ¿Es que no hay, por parte de la Unión Europea, capacidad para responder de manera recíproca, para decir que hay cosas no admisibles y que pueden tener una respuesta? Tengo la impresión de que estamos ante la actitud del personaje femenino que, convencido de estar bajo la autoridad absoluta del marido -y cito una novela española- se alegra porque el suyo sólo la pega "lo normal".

Creo que esto es inaceptable. Hay que cambiar de actitud. Tenemos que parar, como pide la mayoría de los grupos de esta Cámara, la aplicación de las decisiones que se han tomado, se hayan tomado por parte de la Unión y de los Estados Unidos o solamente por parte de los Estados Unidos, y buscar, esta vez sí, con los medios de presión de que disponemos y con nuestra legislación -que debe prevalecer-, un acuerdo que garantice el trato seguro de nuestros datos e informar de este acuerdo de manera correcta al Parlamento y, sobre todo, a nuestros ciudadanos.

Boogerd-Quaak (ELDR). - Dank u wel, Voorzitter. De Commissaris heeft gezegd dat er geen akkoord en geen besluit is, maar wel een interimregeling. Dan is mijn vraag, hoe lang kan een dergerlijke interimregeling dan geldig zijn en hoe moeten wij dat zien? Bescherming van persoonsgegevens is een fundamenteel recht volgens artikel 7 van het Handvest van de grondrechten van de Unie. Dat gaat waarschijnlijk ook onderdeel uitmaken van onze Europese grondwet. Het gaat hier dus over een heel serieuze zaak. Dit alles is ook nog eens vastgelegd in onze richtlijnen en met name in richtlijn 95/46/EEG. Daarin worden ook uitzonderingen geformuleerd waaraan wij zouden kunnen voldoen.

Maar voor zover ik die uitzonderingen gelezen heb, moet ik constateren dat de overdracht van gegevens naar de VS systematisch is en dus niet onder de uitzondering van artikel 13 van die richtlijn vallen. Vervolgens is het ook zo dat het om gegevens gaat die zo omvattend zijn dat je niet kunt zeggen dat ze niet relevant en niet buitensporig zijn en dus niet onder artikel 6 van die richtlijn kunnen vallen. Bovendien stelt richtlijn 95/46/EEG in haar algemeenheid dat de overdracht van persoongegevens naar een derde land alleen mag plaatsvinden als dat derde land een adequaat niveau van bescherming biedt. Ook hieraan is naar mijn opvatting niet voldaan.

Ik heb goed geluisterd naar de Commissaris, hij heeft gezegd dat hij zijn best heeft gedaan om een evenwicht te vinden tussen het behoud van privacy en de bescherming van de luchtvaartmaatschappijen. Ik kan daar enig begrip voor hebben, maar ik geloof toch dat de foute weg is bewandeld. Er is geen democratische legitimatie en er zijn afspraken tot stand gekomen die niet door de volksvertegenwoordiging konden worden getoetst. Dat is een absolute fout. Op dit moment sta ik op het standpunt dat de maatregelen in hun huidige vorm moeten worden opgeschort.

(intervention en danoise -Krarup (GUE/NGL))

Pirker (PPE-DE). - Herr Präsident, Herr Kommissar! Es ist vollkommen unbestritten, dass wir insbesondere nach dem 11. September verstärkte Maßnahmen gegen den Terrorismus setzen müssen, aber ebenso unbestritten muss bleiben, dass alle Maßnahmen, die wir setzen, einer rechtlichen Grundlage bedürfen. Die Vereinigten Staaten haben jetzt am 5. März ein Gesetz in Kraft gesetzt, das zweifelsfrei Auswirkungen auf die Bürger der Europäischen Union hat, auf den Datenschutz und die Bestimmungen in der Europäischen Union. Sie haben dieses Gesetz in Kraft gesetzt, ohne notwendige bilaterale oder multilaterale Verhandlungen zu einem Abschluss zu führen und ohne einen Vertrag mit der Union in Kraft zu setzen.

Daraus ist - was Sie auch angedeutet haben, Herr Kommissar - ein Problem mit den Fluglinien entstanden. Sie sind in einer doppelten Zwickmühle. Geben Sie keine Daten weiter, haben Sie die Probleme mit den Landerechten, d. h. auch geschäftliche Probleme. Geben Sie aber die Daten im notwendigen Umfang weiter, so laufen Sie Gefahr, gegen Unionsrecht zu verstoßen und verklagt zu werden. Das ist ein Riesenproblem, das hier entstanden ist. Dieser Vorgang ist schlicht inakzeptabel.

Die Kritik trifft aber auch die Kommission, die seit 15 Monaten Bescheid wusste, Zeit genug hatte, sich mit der Problematik auseinander zu setzen, mit dem Parlament ins Benehmen zu setzen und nach Lösungen zu suchen. Die Chance ist versäumt worden, wir sind gestern das erste Mal davon in Kenntnis gesetzt worden. Heute debattieren wir über etwas, was schon lange in Kraft ist und wo Daten unserer Bürger in die Vereinigten Staaten transferiert werden, ohne dass wir wirkliche Garantien haben, was mit diesen Daten tatsächlich passiert.

Was ich noch kritisiere, ist, dass die Verhandlungen nicht auf politischer Ebene geführt wurden, sondern dass Beamte beauftragt wurden, hier eine Übereinkunft zu treffen und diese uns dann quasi als Rechtsgrundlage für all diese Vorgänge vorgelegt wurde und den Bürgern der Europäischen Union zugemutet wird. Auch das ist absolut nicht zu akzeptieren.

Das, was wir verlangen, und das, was wir erwarten, ist, dass die Verantwortlichen zur Rechenschaft gezogen werden, die veranlasst haben, dass eine Datenweitergabe ohne eine rechtliche Grundlage aus der Europäischen Union hinaus gegenwärtig erfolgt. Wir verlangen auch als EVP, dass die Möglichkeit einer Klage vor dem EuGH geprüft wird, und wir verlangen insbesondere und sofort, dass repariert wird, was rechtswidrig in Kraft gesetzt wurde und gegenwärtig in Kraft ist. Wir erwarten aber auch, dass wir die Kooperation mit den Vereinten Nationen im Kampf gegen den Terror vorantreiben, aber immer auf einer rechtlichen Basis aufbauend.

Wir alle wissen, dass der Kampf gegen den Terrorismus nur zu gewinnen ist, wenn wir die Kooperation über die Grenze suchen. Daher wollen wir die Kooperation mit den Vereinigten Staaten, aber um es nochmals zu betonen: immer auf der Basis unserer Rechte!

Ceyhun (PSE). - Herr Präsident, Herr Kommissar, es ist schön, dass wir heute hier Zeugen haben, die uns hören und nicht umsonst das Europäische Parlament besuchen. Alle diese Bürgerinnen und Bürger, die uns heute hier hören, sind Steuerzahler und sind die, die auch letztendlich die Gehälter ihrer Beamten finanzieren, und manche verfolgen ironisch unsere Debatten. Und gerade die Leute aus der dritten Reihe ihrer Kommission, Herr Kommissar, Ihre Beamten müssten auch wissen, dass sie in Brüssel eine riesige Verantwortung tragen, dass sie auch die Interessen der Bürgerinnen und Bürger zu schützen haben.

Es ist schon klar, dass wir den Terrorismus bekämpfen müssen. Ich bin selbst jedes Jahr Haushaltsberichterstatter im Ausschuss für Freiheiten und Rechte der Bürger, Justiz und innere Angelegenheiten, und Kommissar Vitorino bekommt von uns alles, was er braucht, wenn es um Terrorismusbekämpfung geht. Bei uns sagt keiner nein, wenn die Maßnahmen sinnvoll sind. Wir wissen gerade seit dem 11. September 2001, was es bedeutet, auf dieser Erde wach zu sein und jederzeit die richtigen Maßnahmen durchführen zu müssen. Aber auf der anderen Seite, Datenschutz ist gerade, und ich sage das aus Deutschland kommend, etwas, das man nicht einfach so schenken kann, wenn man darauf Wert legt, dass wir keine amerikanischen Verhältnisse in der Europäischen Union bekommen. Das ist gerade für uns Abgeordnete als Volksvertreter unsere Aufgabe, die Interessen unserer Wählerinnen und Wähler und unserer Bürger ernstzunehmen und zu verteidigen. Hier geht es nicht nur um die Interessen der Fluggesellschaften. Es geht um die Interessen derjenigen, die demnächst, ohne es zu wissen, allen amerikanischen Sicherheitsbehörden jedes Detail über ihr Leben schon geliefert haben, ohne das jemals genehmigt zu haben, und die nicht wissen, was mit diesen Daten passieren wird. Sie sind bisher immer davon ausgegangen, dass sie in der Europäischen Union in rechtsstaatlichen Verhältnissen leben und dass ihre Daten tabu sind.

Jetzt frage ich mich: Wie werden Sie diese Bürgerinnen und Bürger in Zukunft überzeugen, wenn die amerikanischen Behörden, die gar keine Garantie geben, ihre Daten beliebig missbrauchen können?

Jarzembowski (PPE-DE). - Herr Präsident, sehr geehrter Herr Kommissar! Ich möchte meinem Vorredner noch einmal widersprechen. Er soll mal die Kirche im Dorf lassen. Die deutschen und die anderen Fluggesellschaften informieren die Bürger über die neue Situation, und sie informieren sie, dass sie, wenn sie in die USA fliegen wollen, ihr Einverständnis dazu bekunden müssen, dass diese Daten weitergegeben werden. Hier wird nichts sozusagen vertuscht, sondern die Bürger werden informiert. Dass das nicht ausreicht, ist völlig klar, nur dass Sie jetzt so tun, als ob die Bürger von den Fluggesellschaften hintergangen werden, das ist einfach nicht richtig.

Ich will versuchen, diese ganze Geschichte einmal ein bisschen aus der Sicht der Fluglinien und der Fluggäste zu betrachten. Die Fluggesellschaften in Europa haben wegen der allgemeinen Rezession schon vor dem 11. September Schwierigkeiten gehabt. Durch den 11. September und die Nachfolgezeit sind alle europäischen, aber auch die amerikanischen Fluggesellschaften in großen Schwierigkeiten. Wie Sie in den letzten Tage gelesen haben, droht sogar American Airlines, in Chapter 11 zu fliehen.

Wir haben also eine äußerst schwierige Situation bei den Fluggesellschaften. Das hat auch Konsequenzen auf den Flughäfen und auf die Beschäftigung. Deshalb möchte ich darauf hinweisen, dass es keinen Zweck hat, aus Prinzipienstreit den Luftverkehr zwischen den USA und Europa in den nächsten Wochen zu unterbrechen. Wir müssen sehen, dass wir eine rechtstaatliche, praktikable Lösung für diese Situation finden.

Ich möchte auch einmal darauf hinweisen, dass diese Idee, dass amerikanische Behörden Daten europäischer und anderer Bürger, die in ihren Besitz gelangen, sozusagen mit Wonne vergewaltigen und missbrauchen, auch eine Unterstellung einiger Kollegen ist, die ich in dem Maße nicht stehen lassen kann. Sie können davon ausgehen, dass die Amerikaner, bevor die Europäer ein Datenschutzrecht hatten, viel schärfere Datenschutzregeln hatten als wir und dass es strikte Regelungen über die Weitergabe und Nichtweitergabe von Daten gibt. Die Behauptung, die Amerikaner würden unsere Daten ständig missbrauchen, wenn sie sie bekommen, ist in der Form einfach nicht richtig.

Was wir natürlich brauchen, Herr Bolkestein, sind klare Antworten von Ihnen. Wie wollen Sie die Rechtssicherheit herstellen, dass die amerikanischen Behörden nur die zur Terrorismusbekämpfung erforderlichen Daten erhalten und keine weiteren Daten? Wie wollen Sie sicherstellen, dass die Amerikaner, auch was die Unternehmensdaten angeht, nur die Daten bekommen, die erforderlich sind, aber nicht zur Ausspielung unserer Wirtschaft, unserer Fluggesellschaften etc..? Dies müssen Sie durch klare Vereinbarungen mit den Amerikanern sicherstellen.

Deshalb meine zwei weiteren Fragen zu dem Umfang, in dem Sie bereit sind, mit den Amerikanern zu verhandeln: Welche der von Ihnen aufgezeigten Lösungsmöglichkeiten rechtlicher Art wollen Sie denn nun tatsächlich anwenden, und wie lange werden Sie dafür brauchen? Ich bin der Auffassung, dass wir es uns nicht leisten können, in der gegenwärtigen schwierigen Situation des Luftverkehrs eine faktische Unterbrechung des Luftverkehrs zwischen den USA und Europa heraufzubeschwören.

Swiebel (PSE). - Voorzitter, terrorismebestrijding is noodzakelijk, maar niet alle middelen zijn geoorloofd. Dat is een heelsimpel uitgangspunt. Je kunt geen loopje nemen met de democratische legitimiteit en de geloofwaardigheid van de politiek. Als de Europese Unie onder het mom van terrorismebestrijding teveel inbreuk op de burgerrechten zou toestaan, glijden we af naar een ontwrichting van een rechtsstaat. Als we teveel onze oren laten hangen naar de moeilijkheden van de luchtvaartmaatschappij, zoals de vorige spreker schijnt te willen bepleiten, dan zitten we ook zwaar scheef. In die richting zou het gaan indien het Europees Parlement zich neer zou leggen bij het akkoord tussen de Commissie en de Verenigde Staten.

Dat het nu plotseling volgens Commissaris Bolkestein geen akkoord zou mogen heten, maakt de zaken er niet beter op. Immers de Europese Commissie heeft in dit dossier een scheve schaats gereden en dat valt in het bijzonder tegen van Commissaris Bolkestein, die juist deze week nog zeer blijmoedig zijn kandidatuur heeft aangekondigd voor een tweede termijn als lid van de Europese Commissie - merkwaardig.

De Europese Commissie, zo zei ik, heeft een scheve schaats gereden. In de eerste plaats heeft zij zich niet gehouden aan haar eigen voornemen om het eigen handelen vooraf te toetsen aan artikel 8 van het Handvest van de grondrechten. Bovendien is de Commissie er als hoedster van de Verdragen toe gehouden de bestaande Europese wetgeving, inzake gegevensbescherming in dit geval, te handhaven. Zoals vorige sprekers al uitvoerig hebben toegelicht, -ik zal dat niet herhalen , is een en ander in strijd met elkaar. In plaats van haar taken naar behoren uit te voeren, heeft de Commissie zich gedragen als een burgemeester in oorlogstijd. Toegeven aan de Amerikaanse druk, chantage is het ook wel genoemd, zogenaamd om erger te voorkomen. Dit optreden mist iedere rechtsgrond, is volkomen ondoorzichtig en oncontroleerbaar. Als de Commissie meer politieke moed had getoond en tijdig het Parlement had ingeschakeld, had er een fatsoenlijke discussie kunnen plaatsvinden over de speelruimte binnen de terrorismebestrijding en de grenzen van de gegevensoverdracht.

De Commissie dient dan ook op haar schreden terug te keren en de opschorting van de inwerkingtreding van de overeenkomst te bewerkstelligen. Als de afspraken naar behoren worden getoetst aan de Europese regels kan er een behoorlijke overeenkomst worden gesloten en niet dit halfbakken werk dat de rechtszekerheid op de tocht zet. Ik ben dan ook bijzonder blij dat wij in de resolutie die morgen in stemming komt, ook de weg naar het Europese Hof zullen openstellen, want het is niet de eerste keer dat de Commissie probeert het Parlement buitenspel te zetten.

Coelho (PPE-DE). - Senhor Presidente, Senhor Comissário, caros colegas, vivemos um tempo em que os Estados Unidos da América persistem em indesejáveis iniciativas unilaterais. É inaceitável que adoptem medidas impostas unilateralmente, e sob pena de pesadas sanções, às companhias aéreas. Creio, aliás, que a Comissão e o Conselho devem analisar cuidadosamente se este tipo de medidas é totalmente compatível com os acordos e convenções internacionais, em relação ao tráfego aéreo e aos transportes.

Como vários oradores já sublinharam, e desde logo o senhor presidente Hernández Mollar, as nossas companhias aéreas estão num dilema. O dilema de, por um lado, serem obrigadas a cumprir as regras da União relativas à protecção de dados, concretamente a Directiva 9546 e, por outro lado, serem obrigadas, devido a essa legislação americana, a transmitir esses dados sobre passageiros que voem para, ou a partir ou através dos Estados Unidos. E sabendo que, se o não fizerem, ou o fizerem de um modo incorrecto ou incompleto, serão punidas com severas sanções, que podem ir desde a perda do direito de aterragem até ao pagamento de multas substanciais.

Concordo com todos os oradores que sublinharam que algo esteve mal na relação entre a Comissão e o Parlamento. Só passados quinze meses é que a Comissão apresentou ao Parlamento o problema. E é evidente que a declaração conjunta dos funcionários de 18 de Fevereiro não derroga a lei comunitária e, portanto, não fornece uma base jurídica para que as companhias aéreas autorizem o acesso aos seus dados. Deste modo, é real o risco de serem alvo de processos judiciais, face a queixas de passageiros cujos dados pessoais forem transmitidos às autoridades americanas. A directiva sobre a protecção de dados prevê que só possa existir a transferência de dados pessoais para países terceiros caso seja assegurada uma protecção adequada. Será que os Estados Unidos da América nos dão garantias suficientes em relação à protecção desses dados? É que há que garantir uma definição das razões, uma limitação do uso desses dados, as condições e os limites de transferência e de partilha de dados, a protecção de dados em relação a acessos não autorizados, a duração e as condições de armazenamento, as medidas nacionais para a protecção de dados sensíveis, as formas de recurso dos passageiros para rever e corrigir os dados mantidos pelas autoridades americanas e, finalmente, as condições de reciprocidade.

Espero que este assunto não esteja ausente na próxima cimeira União Europeia - Estados Unidos que terá lugar em 25 de Junho e que a União Europeia tenha uma posição firme. Senhor Presidente, todos nós rejeitamos e condenamos o terrorismo e os seus actos criminosos. Somos solidários com o objectivo americano de prevenção e combate ao terrorismo e condenámos energicamente os terríveis actos de 11 de Setembro. São actos intoleráveis pela violência cega e por atingirem cidadãos inocentes. Porém, para nós, os fins não justificam os meios. Como disseram os colegas Hubert Pirker e Anna Terrón i Cusí, o combate ao crime deve ser feito no quadro do respeito pelo estado de direito e não pondo em causa os direitos dos cidadãos. O nosso respeito pelas leis americanas deve alicerçar-se no recíproco respeito pelo nosso ordenamento jurídico. O nosso combate pela segurança não pode nem deve pôr em causa a liberdade.

...(intervention en suédois Cederschiöld (PPE-DE))

Santini (PPE-DE). - Signor Presidente, signor Commissario, nonostante tutto, io sono fra coloro che ancora si sforzano di capire quali siano le ragioni di fondo che hanno spinto gli Stati Uniti ad adottare questo provvedimento - le conosciamo: l'11 settembre, il clima di paura, i preparativi per la guerra, la minaccia latente degli attentati - ma certamente sono anche fra coloro che dichiarano, senza peli sulla lingua, che non si sentono assolutamente di accettare che un governo alleato, nonostante tutte queste ragioni, víoli degli accordi internazionali basati soprattutto, come in questo caso, sul Trattato europeo.

Sappiamo tutti - è già stato ricordato, ma lo ripeto, così la memoria si rinfresca alla fine del dibattito - che il punto più grave e controverso è quello richiamato nel considerando B della risoluzione, dove si precisa che, inizialmente, gli Stati Uniti avevano semplicemente richiesto la disponibilità di questi dati. In Italia c'è un proverbio che dice: "Chiedere è lecito, rispondere è cortesia"; solo che gli Stati Uniti non hanno avuto la cortesia di aspettare la nostra decisione, ma sono passati immediatamente alla seconda fase della loro azione. Hanno immediatamente usufruito di questi dati, addirittura brandendo la minaccia di una sanzione di 1.000 euro a persona per le compagnie che non avessero messo a disposizione queste informazioni.

E che informazioni, signor Commissario, signor Presidente! Non solo nome e cognome e viaggio di riferimento, ma addirittura tutte le informazioni sulle carte di credito, notizie sugli altri viaggi di questi passeggeri, i dati, ad esempio, che potevano far risalire ai connotati di carattere etnico e religioso dei passeggeri, dati medici, indirizzi di ogni tipo, la professione, l'appartenenza a gruppi determinati, e così via.

La Commissione ha giustificato questa misura dicendo che le compagnie aeree non si sono volute prendere l'onere di creare dei filtri e, quindi, hanno dato l'accesso immediato temendo, fra l'altro, la sanzione dei mille euro. Ha detto anche, la Commissione, che in questo modo si sarebbero evitate delle code fastidiose ai passeggeri all'arrivo, nelle varie destinazioni negli Stati Uniti. Be', questa sembra una spiegazione a dir poco puerile: giustificazioni che non sono accettabili, in quanto in totale violazione - anche questo è stato già ricordato - dell'articolo 8 della direttiva 95/46, e il ruolo della Commissione, primo fra tutti, è quello di far rispettare le direttive, quindi il diritto comunitario.

Un altro punto controverso: da ben quindici mesi la Commissione sapeva, com'è stato ricordato, che il 5 marzo gli Stati Uniti avrebbero fatto entrare in vigore questo provvedimento. Bene, il compito della Commissione sarebbe stato quello di informare tempestivamente i cittadini europei e il Parlamento europeo che, automaticamente, avrebbe fatto da camera di risonanza.

Nemmeno il Congresso americano sembra aver avuto molto rispetto per la democrazia: non ha mai discusso questo provvedimento; ha semplicemente interpretato, si dice, in maniera estensiva la legislazione, passando quindi all'azione. Direi che è un momento di grave disinvoltura anche questo.

L'unico punto di contatto è il famoso accordo del 19 febbraio tra gli alti funzionari, che però non è un accordo scritto, non ha nessuna validità, tantomeno quella di portarci in Corte di giustizia. Si chiede alla Commissione quale sia il fondamento giuridico di questo accordo e qual è l'interesse europeo tutelato nella fattispecie.

Per fare chiarezza su questi e su altri punti, ora il Parlamento europeo ha convocato un'audizione pubblica e, forse, dopo questa audizione, in primo luogo, ne sapremo un po' di più su come sia potuto accadere tutto questo, e, in secondo luogo, avremo soprattutto qualche idea più chiara su che cosa sia più opportuno fare ora, evitando schizofrenie emotive e concordando standard comuni e coerenti da far rispettare in futuro.

Presidente. - Comunico di aver ricevuto una proposta di risoluzione ai sensi dell'articolo 37, paragrafo 2, del Regolamento .

Signor Commissario, mi pare che, alla fine di questo dibattito, tutte le perplessità permangano. Lei ha detto nel suointervento iniziale: "Non c'è decisione, non c'è accordo", ma tutti i colleghi hanno invece insistito sul fatto che le risposte, da questo punto di vista, non erano chiare. Per ultimo, purtroppo devo chiederle di essere abbastanza breve nella sua replica perché dobbiamo lasciare spazio all'Ora delle interrogazioni.

Bolkestein, Commission. - Mr President, I shall do my best to answer the most important questions and remarks addressedto me. It is difficult to be brief as this is a complicated and important subject.

So far we have achieved two things: first, we secured American agreement on the further steps to be taken to reach a mutually satisfactory solution that can provide legal certainty to all concerned. I should like to stress that this seems mutually satisfactory to the Commission, the European Parliament and the European side. I say this in particular to Mrs Buitenweg, who insisted that our norms should be the touchstone for the acceptability of any agreement that might be achieved in future. It must be a mutually satisfactory solution. The American side has accepted that.

Secondly, the American side has given a number of significant unilateral undertakings of immediate application. For example, they gave undertakings on what data they would not use and how they would handle the day-to-day 'do use'. In particular, data gathering would be limited to flights to, from or through the United States. Our discussions so far have yielded this result. We have not yet reached the end of the road - far from it. We have not yet achieved an agreement. The discussions with the United States will continue, I hope as quickly and as energetically as possible. It is premature to say that the Commission has failed and that it should have achieved more than it has. On behalf of Commissioner Patten and Commissioner de Palacio, who deals with transport, I must reject those criticisms. That is not to say that there is not more to do.

It has been pointed out that, although there is no agreement as yet, the effect is nonetheless that data is being accessed where it was not accessed before. That is true. It is clear that in the absence of discussions the airlines would have provided the data anyway. The airlines know that the US airlines and US-based reservations systems are already doing this.

That is a very important point which may have been overlooked in the heat of the debate. It is not simply a question of letting the data be transferred or preventing this, much of it is flowing anyway. Therefore it seems to me that the suggestion which has been made that we should take the airlines to the European Court of Justice is not a very productive suggestion. It is happening now. The airlines are, as Baroness Ludford said, between a rock and a hard place. They know that the American side is serious about imposing penalties, including some that could put their transatlantic traffic at risk. The counterbalancing threat - namely that the Commission would start infringement proceedings, legal action for breaches of the data protection rules - was a serious concern for the airlines. However, some of them have said that is not life- threatening, whereas the American threats are. I would beg Members to understand the very difficult position in which the airlines find themselves, which will have an effect on transatlantic traffic of 10 to 11 million passengers a year, as Commissioner Patten has explained.

A number of speakers have mentioned the supply of information to European Union citizens. Under data protection law, as I am sure Members know, the first duty to inform data subjects lies with data controllers. In this case that is the airlines and possibly travel agents. On Friday 14 March there will be a meeting to ensure that they understand their obligations to inform passengers and aircraft crews about what will happen to their data and why. A duty of information also lies with the American Government. Most of us would find it hard to argue that a country such as the United States does not have the right to determine the conditions under which it allows people to enter the country. They also have a duty to inform the public so that potential travellers can make an informed choice.

Baroness Ludford made a very pertinent point about the data systems that would be based in the European Union and the way in which the United States would access those data systems. It concerns the direct application of the Directive to US Customs that give the European Directive a clear extraterritorial effect.

The Commission is at present undertaking a thorough legal analysis of the various implications of that question, for example with regard to the scope of the Directive and to the exercise of state power by US Customs within the territory of Member States. The judgment is awaited from the European courts in a case that may throw some light on the Directive's precise scope but no date has yet been fixed by the courts.

In any event this question only arises when US Customs have direct access to the airlines' databases. It would not arise if the airlines were to send the data to US Customs and this method of transfer, that is the push method, is certainly much to be preferred if it can be organised from a technical point of view.

Furthermore, the question has been raised in particular by Mrs Buitenweg and also by other Members of Parliament about meals taken on aircraft. It is important to realise that the US screening process does not use data such as meal orders, but those data are in passenger name records and they are downloaded with the rest. That is bad practice in terms of data protection. The fact is that the United States neither requires airlines to change their data collection practices nor asks them to separate relevant data from irrelevant data, which makes the exercise less costly for the airlines.

Mr Santini and Mr Jarzembowski referred to this aspect of the case. Even our Directive says that certain efforts are not mandatory where they are disproportionate to the results they achieve for data protection. We shall certainly pursue our talks with the airlines with the view to their installing filters that separate US flights from the rest and possibly also filters that separate sensitive data from other data which the US side say they do not need or use.

These are some of the more substantial points which were raised by Members of Parliament. In addition to these points, with respect to a suggestion made by Mrs Paciotti, the possibility of using 25(6), i.e. a finding of adequacy, is of course available. If the Commission should come to the conclusion that there is adequacy in this area it will and it must inform Parliament and a proper discussion can then take place on the basis of this finding of the Commission.

A question has also been raised about discussions to be held at political level. I am sensitive to that suggestion and I shall certainly discuss it with Commissioner Patten - who begs to be excused for the reasons that he mentioned - and Commissioner de Palacio, since she, for obvious reasons, is very much involved.

On the other hand I would like to say that it is not always the political input that provides a solution. After all, the staff - certainly in the case of the services that work under my supervision - are extremely able people. There is no reason to suppose that they can achieve less than Commissioners at political level, but the possibility cannot be excluded and I am therefore sensitive to this suggestion.

Various Members of Parliament have spoken about the suspension of the American measures. I am sorry, but in view of what I said earlier and also what Mr Jarzembowski said, we cannot afford, especially in these days of political uncertainty and economic downturn, to stop air traffic to the United States or seriously put it in jeopardy. After all it concerns millions of passengers per year and we cannot afford to put that in jeopardy.

Mr Jarzembowski has said that we must have a practical solution, with a proper legal basis, in cooperation with the United States. I agree entirely with him and the Commission will make every effort to achieve that practical solution, firmly based on the law. I hope to be able to discuss further developments in this area with Parliament as appropriate."

Background documentation

1. Full-text of report for the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, 6.3.03: Text

2. How US Customs bounced the European Commission into a quick decision

3. Full-text: Mr Rodota's letter (pdf)

4. Full-text: European Commission/US Customs talks on PNR transmission, Brussels, 17/18 February: Joint Statement (html)

5. Statewatch report 27.2.03:
EU Working Party report on passenger data access by USA

6. Full text of : Article 29 Data Protection Working Party: Opinion 6/2002 on transmission of Passenger Manifest Information and other data from Airlines to the United States, adopted 24 October 2002, doc no: 11647/02/EN, WP 66 (pdf).

7. Statewatch report 26.2.03: US Customs to have direct access to EU airlines reservations databases

8. Statewatch report 13.2.03: European Commission caves in to US demands for airline passenger lists

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