European Parliament committee adopts highly critical report on EU-US passenger name record data (PNR)



On Thursday 18 March the Citizens' Rights Committee adopted a draft resolution by Johanna Boogerd-Quaak (ELDR, NL) on the transfer of personal passenger data to the United States by 25 votes to 9 with 3 abstentions. The report will now go to the parliament's plenary on Wednesday 24 March.

The report is highly critical of the deal done by the Commission and calls for it to withdraw its finding of "adequacy" on the "Undertakings" set out in the Agreement. The MEPs warn the Commission that they reserve the right to appeal to the Court of Justice should the Commission continue without taking account of Parliament's demands.

It is to be expected that MEPs will come under strong pressure from their national governments to reverse this decision at the plenary session.

Report agreed by the Committee on 18.3.04: Report (pdf)


European Parliament press service, Brussels, 18 March 2004

Passenger data on transatlantic flights: MEPs keep up their opposition

The Citizens' Rights Committee adopted a draft resolution by Johanna Boogerd-Quaak (ELDR, NL) on the transfer of personal passenger data to the United States by 25 votes to 9 with 3 abstentions on Thursday 18 March 2004.

In the course of 2003, the European Commission worked out a draft agreement with the US on the obligations for European air carriers. MEPs object to the following points in the draft agreement:

the number of PNR items (34) the US wants to obtain;
the purposes for which the data might be used (not only for fighting terrorism, but also for fighting "serious crime");
the lack of redress mechanisms for people who are denied entry to the US on the basis of the information in the PNR records;
the lack of opportunities for passengers to correct errors in their personal data;
the fact that a "pull" instead of a "push" system is used to obtain the data, meaning that the US does not have to ask for the data but has immediate access to it;
the number and kind of agencies that have access to the personal data.
In the draft resolution, MEPs point out that there exists no specific EU legislation for using PNR data for public security purposes and that, in the USA, the protection of privacy is not regarded as a fundamental right. In the USA, only US citizens are granted the right to data protection.

MEPs see the draft decision as unreliable, since it keeps open the option of amending the rules at any given time. They consider the importance of the issue to be such that they urge the Commission to reach a proper international agreement with the US that would offer genuine guarantees for passengers or, at the very least, the same protection as provided for US citizens. Such an agreement would need to stipulate:

the guarantees to be offered to passengers in order to enable them to correct their data;
the list of serious crimes for which an additional request for information could be made;
the list of authorities and agencies which would share the data and the data protection conditions to be respected;
the data retention period;
the right to appeal to an independent authority and redress mechanisms in the event of infringements of passengers' rights.

Pending a permanent legislative solution or the conclusion of an international agreement, the committee calls upon the Member States to require immediate compliance with EU and domestic privacy laws and to require airlines and travel agencies to obtain passengers' consent for the transfer of data. Furthermore, MEPs urge the Commission to block the pull system and to apply the push system.

The Commission is also asked to withdraw the draft decision and to submit to Parliament a new adequacy-finding decision. MEPs warn the Commission that they reserve the right to appeal to the Court of Justice should the Commission continue without taking account of Parliament's demands.

On Wednesday, the Citizens' Rights Committee held an exchange of views with Stewart VERDERY, assistant secretary at the US Department of Homeland Security. Mr Verdery was the lead negotiator for the US on the agreement with the European Commission. Mr Verdery had a clear message for Parliament: he said that air carriers were already transferring personal data and that at the moment no rules on the storage or use of data were in place. Parliament would be well advised to prefer the draft agreement the US and the Commission had reached to no agreement at all.


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