Today 14 April, the European air passenger data directive was adopted by the European Parliament. Nevertheless, even its supporters already admit that it will not be the best panacea to fight terrorism.
With 461 votes for and 179 against, the European Parliament decided to adopt the Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive. Just nine MEPs abstained from voting. As a result, PNR data collected and held by air carriers for operational purposes will be shared with national authorities for the prevention of terrorism and serious crime.
Despite strong criticism from the Greens, the left and the Liberals, MEPs voted in unison to strengthen data protection legislation.
“An important new tool for fighting terrorists and traffickers” British Conservative and PNR rapporteur Timothy Kirkhope (ECR group) was quoted as describing by Euractiv.
The PNR Directive in Brief
The adoption of a common EU PNR system as part of the European security strategy has long been debated but, after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, it gained momentum.
In brief, whenever an extra-EU flight lands in an EU country or departs from it, airlines are required to transmit PNR data of those passengers to the concerned member state.
Each EU Member will determine a Passenger Information Unit (PIU), which will store and compare PNR of unsuspected persons against databases.
It will be possible for Member States to apply the directive to intra-EU flights. In this case, they must notify the Commission.
They will also be able to collect PNR data from travel agencies and tour operators.
Read “European Parliament to vote on Passenger Name Records” for more details on this.
This Directive will not be our panacea to fight terrorism, says MEPs
Nevertheless, each member state will have control over its own database and no obligation whatsoever for member states to share information with other EU countries is envisaged.
It is exactly this lack of centralisation, together with other concerns, that were severely criticised during the plenary debate, hold in the Strasbourg on Wednesday 13 April. The nature of collected data was too broad and vague, while the length of time passenger information may be stored was unclear, according to the MEPs.
Besides the impact of this legislation on civil liberties, many MEPs are convinced that the European PNR will do nothing to face the threat posed by international terrorism.
“Do we need to increase the mass of information available to the EU member states’ surveillance services, when they are all saying that they are drowning in data but don’t have the capacity to analyse it?” Yannick Jadot, a French Green MEP, was quoted as saying by Euractiv.
Member states have officially two years to transpose the directive into national law, an extra delay that increases the total length of time between the Commission’s initial PNR proposal and its implementation to seven years.