Massive majority in European Parliament against deal with US on access to passenger data (1)

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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

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