Statewatch News Online: Debate in the European Parliament on PNR - 11 October 2006

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(Abstracts from speakers who intervened on behalf of their groups) 11.10.2006

Minister for European Affairs Paula Lehtom (Finland, Presidency)

"The outcome of negotiations enables us to avoid a period without a valid agreement, and this is extremely important. I believe that we all agree on it".

"The temporary agreement will be valid until the end of July 2007. During its validity, the parties will agree on a more permanent arrangement for the transfer of personal name records. Negotiations to this effect will probably be opened during the Finnish Presidency".

"The final outcome is a success for many reasons: (...) Level of protection will be the same, we will have the same 34 fields in 2004, same guarantees when it comes to PNR, and this is why we believe it is a good result".

"We have also other good news to airline companies: during the negotiations the United States committed to permit, as early as this year, testing of systems where airlines themselves can save PNR data in databases of US authorities. This has been an important objective for us".

Commisioner Franco Frattini

Frattini started "fully endorsing the positive analysis of the presidency in office of the usefulness of this agreement, which primarily provides legal certainty and ensuring airlines can continue their flight to US. This agreement is part of a wider commitment". "During negotiations, US, Council and Commission reaffirmed their desire to continue working on a wider scope for a wider approach and achieve a final agreement to replace this temporary one from August 2008 onwards".

"I do feel that in political terms it is vital for EP to be involved, even though the proceedings will be under the III pillar. I am aware of the fact that many MEPs have study it carefully... This agreement does NOT permit the exchange of more data; with the new temporary agreement, "it will be possible to transfer data to other agencies (not only border protection and custom agencies) while fully complying with data protection rules".

"From 2004 there was a change on how US agencies were structured. Now there is a new role for the Department of Homeland Security which we need to take into account, as such we cannot leave it out". It means that now there are different agencies dealing with terrorism, "but we have also the commitment that customs and border protection agencies will carry same activities as before. Other agencies MIGHT get other information on a case by case basis; there is NOT direct access by other agencies".
"What kind of request would lead to such transfer? A case by case approach, either by indications of clear direct threat or indications that a specific flight or route might be threatened". In that sense, "nothing has changed, such data will be provided for investigations on terrorist threats. Agencies not linked with terrorism will NOT access these data".

"The fact is that there has been a change on how this data can be accessed. Before the so-called pull system did not guarantee the protection of data. We requested and received guarantees that the system will be changed to a push system. This means data are not extracted but passed on only if this is requested".

"As we said on our interpretative letter this will enter into force in December this year at the latest, and the system will be tested out before. There is a specific requirement to comply with art. 6 of the Treaties to respect fundamental rights of individuals when it comes on the way of protection of their data, deleting references to directive on data protection (which was ruled as the wrong legal basis by the court). Art 6 is more binding on legal terms".

"Some conclusions: commitment by US authorities will ensure that everyone will provide adequate protection of data. And a final point: I would like to confirm that the whole question of the period of time of storage was not an issue we dealt with. Since agreement will expire in July 2007, this should in fact be covered in further negotiations for the final agreement, to start in January 2007.

Ewa Klamt (EPP-ED, DE)

"USA no longer has automatic access to data, they have to make a request to airlines, and I would like to thank Frattini specifically for this".

However "air passengers do not have the feeling that their security has been increased or enhanced, therefore my group feels we have not gained with the court ruling. I would say we need to continue fighting for a higher protection of data when it comes to future negotiations".

Martine Roure (PSE, FR)

"For my group it was urgent to reach an agreement and not to leave airlines on a legal state of uncertainty, and threaten with severe sanctions. Nonetheless I am extremely concerned with the ease with which these data will be transferred to other agencies".

"We demand citizens to have an appeal right if they feel their data protection rights have been abused. We also want to involve national parliaments, (...) they should be involved in the ratification procedures. How will be done the ratification process and which will be the timetable?".

"EP must be involved as well. It is vital to think together on the protection of our citizens when it comes to transatlantic relations like the Swift issue".

Sophie In 't Veld (ALDE, NL)

"I am afraid I ended up in the wrong theatre play with the wrong seat, the interpretation of the US letter is opposite to what you are exposing (...) I am unable to share the joy" you express. "I would v much like to receive answers of questions I made like: How do you explain the part in the explanatory letter which talks of the use of data to know about who has an infectious disease?"

The agreement includes the transfer to other non specified agencies, and now US authorities say they might not comply with deadlines for deleting... they also say they will move to the push system as soon as technically possible but this is technically possible since a year ago and they never used it!".

"Yes we need this agreement but for the future we need a strong and clear mandate and such strong mandate requires the role of the Parliament for democratic legitimacy. We also need to apply the pasarelle clause".

JohannesVoggenhuber (Verts/ALE, AT)

"This is the wrong scenario and the acting is not Oscar wining". "Today we are looking at an agreement under the III pillar, no public debate, not role of EP, not ratification of national parliaments... it continues to be a transfer of data outside the protection of the law! This breaches international law and it is an absurdity to listen to Commission speech".

Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann (GUE/NGL, DE)

"Ms. In 't veld is right, the agreement is not a reason for a celebration. But it is at least an agreement".

"We are making genuflexions to the Americans. This info will be passed directly to the Homeland Security Department, of course this will end up being passed to the CIA and this is scandalous! In the name of combating terror we have cases of extraordinary renditions, and now we are giving them PNR and saying 'you can do whatever you want with it' ".

"Citizens will not have the proper protection of their rights. There is an agreement with Canada which is different... the only way ahead is the change from pull to push system".

Brian Crowley (UEN, IR)

3 questions: what further guarantees with regards the hold of the data? Criteria for the use of that data?

Use case by case: how much time do we have to respond to such request, also from a European perspective?

If we find some data has been misused, what mechanism has been foreseen to avoid and punish the abuse?

Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, FR) Chairman of the Civil Liberties Committee

"Cet accord intrimaire s'arrete en juillet 2007, il va donc falloir en preparer la suite, sans doute des la fin de l'hiver prochain. Compte tenu des nombreuses questions que posent les zones d'ombre de cet accord, notamment ce qui m'inquite un peu la lettre intinterpretative laquelle Sophie in 't Veld a fait allusion tout l'heure, estbce qu'il vous semble d'raisonnable, Monsieur le vicebpresident, d'espC)rer bC"tir une sorte de compromis d'ici le prochain sommet C tatsbUnis/Europe, c'estbC bdire d'ici C avril 2007? Peutbon espC)rer bC"tir une espC(ce de 'Schengen transatlantique' sur la base duquel les C tatsbUnis, d'un cC4tC), et l'Union europC)enne, de l'autre, pourraient dC)finir un cadre permettant de rC)gler C la fois le problC(me des exigences de sC)curitC) et celui de la protection des citoyens?"

Answers from Commissioner Frattini

"The kind of debates with European Parliament during the next months -when we open negotiations with US- need to presuppose a mutual desire to understand each other, and this has to be based upon knowledge on what is happening". "I heard here that the info would be passed to the CIA, and this is NOT true, no intelligence service will have access to these data. If you want to make people believe it, do it but this is just not true".

"The Homeland Security Department will not transfer data to all kinds of agencies, only to agencies dealing with the fight on terrorism and on case by case bases. Agreement is not at all different than the former one on this issue".

"You have to understand that this temporary agreement was made under urgency to avoid chaos of having every company airline their own agreement. The kind of anarchy we were trying to avoid would happen overnight (...) We will guarantee an appropriate level of protection of data, and this is not only my own perception. In the undertakings there are provisions for the agreement to be suspended if the appropriate level of protection is not maintained, so there is a protection mechanism and, if we need to go to court, we can".

On the accompanying letter on US- "I did not agree on the fact that they will be applying to their own rules of jurisdiction, it will be the role of the judges to decide on the jurisdiction".

On the pull/push system: "We will be answering In 't Veld questions in writing, it is not true that the push system will enter into force when the Americans want, we have a very clear data which is only one month and a half away, in December. There is a new test to use Amadeus system and it can be done overnight".

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