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EU-US PNR: Council to ignore parliament and go ahead with "deal"
01 May 2004
- if the Commission adopt "adequacy" finding and Council adopt agreement the parliament's current court case will fall though it could bring annulment proceedings
The Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) is planning to ignore the views of the European Parliament and go ahead with the EU-US PNR "deal". Yesterday the parliament voted for a third time against the "deal" - this time with the biggest majority against. The Council intend to proceed to adopt an international agreement which will authorise airline companies in the EU to give access to passenger name data to US agencies. The Council move will have to follow the formal adoption by the European Commission of its finding of "adequacy" of the "Undertakings" given by the USA.
The Council intend to conclude the treaty even in the absence of the parliament's opinion. This will make the EP's request for the view of the Court of
Justice on the proposed treaty null and void. The EP will then have to decide whether to bring annulment proceedings against the Council's decision to conclude the treaty and/or the Commission's decision on compatibility. Sarah Ludford MEP (ELDR, Liberal group) has called on the parliament's President, Pat Cox, to write to the Commission asking them not to adopt the finding of adequacy. In a press statement she:
"welcomed the commitment of European Parliament President Pat Cox to formally ask that the Council and Commission hold off from signing the 'PNR' agreement with the US on transfer of air passenger data.
They should wait until the European Court of Justice has given its judgment on compatibility with EU privacy law consequent on the EP decision to refer that matter. The European Parliament yesterday voted to refuse the deadline imposed by the Council for delivery of its opinion, preferring to wait for the Court.
Baroness Ludford, who made the request today at the beginning of business on behalf of the ELDR group, commented:
"We need to be aware of the precedent set by the Council in taking legislative decisions in two cases without the opinion of the Parliament, on grounds that they had set a deadline which we had not observed. We should warn them not to undermine the spirit of respect between the EU institutions in the present PNR case."
"If EU governments are not moved by an appeal to stop bullying MEPs into giving up the fight for individual rights to data protection, they should at least respect the rule of law and await the Court ruling, which is expected before the summer."
In a letter to the Chairman of the legal affairs committee, rapporteur Johanna Boogerd-Quaak MEP (D66/Netherlands) further argued that in order to protect the interest of parliament, it may be necessary to take legal action against the Council and Commission.
"Should the Council continue to disregard the consistent opinion of Parliament and decide to conclude the Agreement without waiting for the opinion of the European Court of Justice it would be acting against the principle of loyal cooperation between the institutions. In this case, I believe it would be essential that Parliament take legal action in order to protect parliamentary prerogatives."
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:
"The Council intend to proceed with the EU-US PNR deal against the express wishes of the European Parliament and in doing so show a contempt for democracy. They tried on three occasions to get the measure through the parliament and failed each time so the Council has simply reverted to Treaty powers which allow it to ignore the parliament's views."
1. Council decision to go ahead: Conclusion of agreement (9025/04)
2. For an excellent overview see Edward Hasbrouck including effect on EU travellers: Hasbrouck