EP rejects EU-US PNR deal by an even bigger majority

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- new "enlargement" MEPs back stand against the transfer of personal data to the USA

The European Parliament has just voted (1pm in Strasbourg) by 343 votes to 301 with 18 abstentions not to vote on the "urgency request" by the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments). The vote was on the procedural question of whether or not to vote on the "urgency request" by deciding not to vote on the issue the parliament has confirmed its previous position in opposing the EU-US PNR deal (to give access to airline passenger data to US agencies). The parliament decision to go to the Court of Justice now continues to take its course. If the vote had gone the other way and the parliament voted on the request it would have annulled the Court case.

The majority in favour of rejecting the EU-US PNR deal increased from 16 to 42 - the vote to take the case to the Court was: 276 in favour and 260 against.

The parliament had twice before voted against the "deal", the second on taking the case to the Court. The Commission and Council decided to call for another vote by calling for yet another vote - this time on the international agreement authorising the transfer of personal data - at the last plenary session of the parliament. The session on 3-5 May was intended to only deal with: welcoming the ten new EU Member States, voting on the new member states Commissioners, and saying goodbye to those MEPs leaving the parliament for good. The Council sent:

"a letter dated 28 April 2004 from Mr Jean-Claude PIRIS, Director-General of the Council's Legal Service, conveying a request from the Council to the European Parliament that it deliver its opinion on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of an Agreement between the European Community and the USA on the processing and transfer of PNR data by Air Carriers to the United States Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (2004/0064(CNS)) (PE 343.403/CPG.);"

and the Agenda of the meeting was changed to allow for a vote to be taken.

The Commission and Council (and the US Mission) knew that 162 MEPs from the 10 new member states would be sworn in with full voting rights on Monday morning (3 May) joining the existing 632 MEPs. They lobbied them hard to overturn the previous votes. However, the vote against the "deal" increased. The Council can go ahead and adopt the international agreement authorising the passing of data to the USA - in parrallel the parliament's court case goes ahead for the ECJ to rule on.

Johanna Boogerd-Quaak, (ELDR, Liberal group), the rapporteur, said after the vote:

"This means that we have now voted five times to speak out against this agreement with the US. I hope the Council now understands that no means no."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"The Commission, the EU governments and the US Mission in Brussels were counting on the MEPs from the ten new Member States to reverse the two previous votes in the parliament - instead the majority against the "deal" increased. This is good news for civil liberties and for democracy."

For the full background see Statewatch's Observatory on EU-US PNR

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