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EU Passenger Name Record proposal: the ideological battle over the proposed system is the main reason of new delays on the final vote

Passenger Name Record, known as PNR data, is defined as ‘the information provided by passengers when reserving or booking travel tickets and when checking in on flights, as well as the information collected by air carriers for their own commercial purposes’. The system contains a variety of information, such as travel dates, travel itinerary, ticket information, contact details, travel agent through which the flight was booked, method of payment, seat number and baggage information.

All these different types of data are stored in the airlines’ reservation and departure control databases.

The use of PNR data is not currently being regulated at EU level, the PNR proposal aims at harmonizing the member states’ provision on the collection and processing of these data.

The proposed EU PNR directive would oblige airlines to hand EU countries their passengers’ data in order to help national authorities to fight terrorism and serious crime. It would require more systematic collection, use and retention of PNR data on air passengers, and would therefore have an impact on the rights to privacy and data protection.

The provisional deal reached by Parliament and Council negotiators on 2 December 2015 on an EU directive regulating the use of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) data for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime was endorsed by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee on 10 December 2015. Approved with 38 votes against 19, with 2 abstentions, the draft directive was supposed to be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole in early 2016, in particular this week at the Strasbourg plenary.

The emotional response to the Paris terror attacks last November seemed to have settled the sensitive issue of the vote on the PNR, but at the end, on 7 March the proposal on placing PNR in the agenda of the plenary session was rejected.

A number of left-wing groups, including the Socialists, Liberals and Greens, have now blocked formal discussion of the proposed legislation, delaying the final vote, stated the group of the conservative law makers.

That package foresees that data, including passengers’ identities and flight details, contact information, travel agents and means of payment, are made available to other EU countries’ security agencies for six months, then stored and kept available under stricter rules for further 4-1/2 years.

The ideological battle over the proposed system is the main reason of this delay.

Many MEP’s are concerned by the privacy implication the agreement would have, so have questioned the proportionality of the proposed EU scheme for the collection use and retention of airline passengers’ data.

Nevertheless, those in favor of the new scheme highlighted its potential added value for EU counter-terrorism policy, underlining that an EU framework would be more functional than a patchwork of different national system.

The give-and-take nature of the agreement between the Council and the Parliament is also particularly clear on the matter: the majority of MEP’s would prefer to see the data protection package adopted at the same time as the PNR directive, but the Council has been temporizing on the point.

However the PNR text remains the cause of deep division both among parties and within each party.

After the draft directive will be voted by the Parliament as a whole, it will have to be approved by the Council of Ministers. Member states will have then to transpose the EU PNR directive into their national laws at latest two years after his entry into force.

Elena Dal Monte

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Adeline Silva Pereira

Après avoir effectué la deuxième année du master Sécurité Globale analyste politique trilingue à l'Université de Bordeaux, j'effectue un stage au sein d'EU Logos afin de pouvoir mettre en pratique mes compétences d'analyste concernant l'actualité européenne sur la défense, la sécurité et plus largement la coopération judiciaire et policière.

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