On Thursday, June 4th, amendments to the EU Passenger Name Record data proposal (EU PNR) have been discussed in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee. The Libe rapporteur Mr. Kirkhope prepared a new version of the draft rapport presented on the 26th of February 2015 to this Committee. Of the 836 amendments tabled, 47 were presented by the rapporteur itself in his draft reports, while other 789 by MEP from various political groups.
There were a significant number of amendments to my rapport. The European Parliament is committed in the plenary to gaining agreement on the directive to the end of this year if possible. I am sure that there is a desire for progress also to be made on on the Data Protection Regulation and a directive in a similar time frame. I believe there is movement in that regard and that is encouraging too.
I believe all of you know my position by now, and that I believe that this directive is not only essential in the fight against international criminality terrorism, but it is also essential in of putting in place the highest possible standards in term of data protection and processing and legal and administrative redress for individuals especially passengers.
All our security endeavours are seeking to protect lives and our liberties. In my mind this aims can be doubt equally and fairly in this directive.
In terms of the amendments received, there are a very broad selection. There are amendments calling for the rejection of the directive, and there are also amendments that call on the data sharing and collection, there are amendments, which propose a mode for regulations as well as for a directive. I made my position clear in my revise report because some media are continuing to refer only to Commission proposals, and that is from a parliamentary point of view unacceptable.
I have opinions on each of the individual amendments but I believe it is more usual for those here today to explain the thinking behind the amendments.
I think there are core elements on which we can reach a compromise and we are attempting to do so. These core elements involve data protection provisions and safeguards, the scope of the directive itself and the need for better information sharing and more rules in regard of that information sharing between the member states. There is clear desire among members and their amendments to make sure that when we provide law enforcement measures regarding the use of data that, that sharing and collections is actually carried out. That it’s exchange is efficient and that the instruments we prepare are been used and implemented properly. There is little use of instruments been created which have not been used by member States or used properly. And that issue is reflected in a number of amendments. I think we have a lot of experience here on some of very important measures passing throw which have encouraged cooperation and exchange of information in order to deal with law enforcement and I think som of us certainly have been disappointed over the last few years as they have not been used as much as they should have been, or have not been used in a proper manner.
There have also been a large number of amendments on crimes, which can be included in the scope of the directive as well as the need to collect information not just for flights outside the EU but also for flights inside the EU.
My personal position is quite clear in this regard, once the right safeguard review mechanism are put in place, we should produce a directive which leaves as few loopholes as possible for criminals to exploit. In terms of moving forward the shadow rapporteurs and I met more times and I believe we are working constructively together.
Do we agree on everything at the moment? No.
Do we believe it will be an easy task? Of course not.
But I do believe we trying to find solutions by working together closely. And I hope we will soon be back in committee been able to vote on a position which provides an effective European system which the majority of political groups and members can then support. I am still convinced on the necessity and proportionality of the instrument and also that an experienced solution is required. This has been accorded as you know by the Commission, by the Council, by Member States and by Europol.
The threats we face are real and we need to find solutions
I want to thank also the shadow rapporteurs who I know have been working very hard and cooperating fully in moving our report forward.
Augustín Díaz De Mera García Consuegra (EPP):
Our Rapporteur is doing an excellent job, however the European Parliament is and remains too slowly within its legislative work on PNR. Two months has passed since we send our amendments to Mr. Kirkhope’s report, however we’ve had 5 shadow meetings, unfortunately without any progress. There were discussions on Article 7, 7/A, 8 and 1 but without any agreement.
The main important points for EPP, these are points where we stick into our guns because protection of our citizens is our priority, protection against terrorism and terrorist attacks and other serious crimes is important as well. Basically the EPP is calling for: Enlarging the scope of application, including national flight in order to reduce the possibility for criminals and foreign fighters to have access to Europe, secondly inclusion of other operators as tourist operators which sell tourist packages using charter flights, but their customers PNR data is not necessarily passed on to the airlines operating the flights, PNR data should be passed on in any case. Moreover we call for enforcing the cooperation between Member States and Europol.
The retention period is also important; if the period is too short the investigations can’t be fruitful. The EPP is calling for an extension of the retention period from 4 to 7 years after which data should be erased permanently. Data should be encrypted after six months. Collection and use of sensitive data banned in order to ensure a high level of data protection, we need to make sure that national independent supervisor authorities in each member state and in particularly there needs to be someone in charge of PNR data processing who is also in charge to control and evaluate how the data are processed.
EPP is also asking for a clear list of crimes, which are a serious threat to the public.
We need to listen to what member states are saying in order to agree on compromises as quick as possible.
Birgit Sippel (S&D):
We all have different views, but at the end of the day we need to reach a compromise. Concerning the statements of the EPP exponent, rapid does not necessarily mean good, on our opinion the EP was not too slow.
Protect citizens is important as EPP emphasised but in fact more than 99% of the passengers are innocent citizens, so we need to ensure that data are treated carefully respecting their privacy avoiding abuses.
PNR really can add value, but we need to be very cautious on how we work on it. How data collection can be protected, how we can create laws to ensure safety. It is worth spending the time to ensure we create a really sound result. Concerning the periods of retention, just mentioning the time of data retention may help criminals, so perhaps we should keep the data for 50 years ensuring that they have to wait for a very long time before they attempt travel.
We think that only data relating to cross boarder flight should be collected.
We do have very different positions in various areas, but for us the questions of taking account of the court judgement concerning the high protection of data, scope is important assuring that at the end of the day we have a single European system applied in all member states and not 29 very different systems. I’m looking forward for an agreement to be reached soon.
Sophie in ‘t Veld (ALDE):
A bit surprised by the words of the EPP exponent, concerning the slow work of the Parliament on the PNR dossier, as they don’t reflect the atmosphere in which we have been working so far. We are actually doing our work and we want to know when the Commission or the Council intend to deliver?
We have been waiting for two and a half months now, for a reply at my letter, on two issues related to the:
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Necessity and the proportionality of an EU PNR scheme;
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Legal analysis of the Commission concerning Data retentions ruling which is key to this dossier.
I do expect the Council and the Commission to deliver because otherwise we will not do it either.
On the substance of the proposals, for my group there is one big priority: How do we achieve the sharing of information?
Achieving the sharing of information is a very key point; we want mandatory and ultimate sharing of information: in first place the results of the analysis of PNR data and where necessary and appropriate also the role data itself.
We opt strongly for a Single European Passenger Information Unit, being convinced that this would be best achieved by having a regulation instead of a directive, and for us this is the key to everything.
On the scope the safeguards and other elements, they will depend on what the module for Passenger Information Unit will be like. With regard to scope we are talking about a list of crimes that should be covered by the European PNR scheme, I can imagine that we find a compromise on that, but it’s important that we include a review of this list of crimes.
With regard to intra EU flights, our group is opposed to include intra EU flights data or other ways of transport.
Concerning the retention period, we would propose data retention for no longer than 30 days if not necessary for any other kind of investigation.
I think a compromise is possible, we have a couple of shared objective but the success will depend on the commitment of all the political groups.
Jan Philipp Albrecht (Alliance ‘90/the Greens):
I share lot of the critical remarks. We should remember that in order to legally collect data, when retaining them you need to have any proportional link to a risk or suspicion otherwise it’s illegal.
This directive on PNR does not foresee any reason for which the flights are risky, there is no justification needed for the profiling of passengers. There’s no targeting, no profiling, that’s just mass collection of data. The US at this moment is getting in a better direction than Europe, at least they speak about targeting in their measures trying to involve targeting criteria in their measures.
Collecting data on innocent passengers is not just illegal but cost a lot of time and money.
It is a scandal that Commission and Council have not changed their proposals on this directive after the Data Retention Case of the ECJ last April. They just ignored the Highest Court. Even if you think that PNR data is something totally different data than personal ones than our institution has send the Canada PNR agreement to the Court in order to have a feedback.
Kristina Winberg (EFD):
The directive is on the right track but I’m very concerned about the time it takes. The important think for me is that we get together the rules assuring that all member states are gathering the same information and distributing the same information in order to fight serious crime. I don’t think that PNR should only apply to flight to and from the EU but to all type of flights, including charters.
I see it as my human right to be safe in my own country, and I don’t feel safe in my county anymore so that’s why I welcome this directive.
Christine Revault d’Allonnes Bonnefoy (S&D):
I’m keen to include confidentiality and also charter flights into PNR.
PNR needs to be more operational this is why we need to follow my position on cross boarder offences could be determinant using PNR.
Include the term of race is useless and meaningless as we all belong to one race, this opinion is also shared by the foreign affairs committee. We are working to make the PNR system more effective, operational and proportionate in order to better fight organized crime and terrorism.
Sylvie Guillaume (S&D):
Four areas that on my opinion deserve more focus for amendments:
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Strengthening the European dimension and system. The harmonising effect of the directive, there is a proposal, which maintains a centralized structure. We need to ensure that we have more commonly applied criteria.
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Increasing warranties, several sub-points here: we need to be more specific about the information of passengers. Improving the operations of PNR units.
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Focus on sensitive data and strengthen warranties with regards to the transmission of sensitive data and the PNR data annex needs to drop the general remarks category.
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>In this proposal later examination will focus on quantitative data almost exclusively, we have to add also qualitative data and that means that we have to add a number of criteria to our examinations.
Responses from Council and Commission:
We hope the vote will follow quickly. Council remains committed to reach an agreement as quick as possible. Council believes that it’s important and necessary to have a strong and effective PNR. It is important to engage in this interinstitutional debate.
Responding to Madame in ‘t Veld reminding that The Commission has actually responded to the letter for the resolution of the Parliament, the 11th of February, identifying the key elements that the Commission considering for a reply. The letter, which was sent the month of March, will have a response by the end of this week.
Concerning the Proportionality issue, it needs to be linked to the data protection safeguards that the PNR will put in place. Necessity instead as been said several times, the PNR processing is the only tool used to identify the suspect using conjunction with other information held b, it is therefore clearly difficult to distinguish the cases where PNR processing was the only useful tool.
To know more:
-EU-LOGOS, “ANOTHER EPISODE OF THE PNR SAGA, REMARKS OF THE NATIONAL DATA PROTECTION AUTHORITIES”