Welcome for EU governments’ support for Passenger Name Records agreement

The European Parliament’s lead member on proposals to use flight booking information, in the fight against terrorism, has welcomed support from EU governments today.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Passenger Name Records (PNR) proposal said that a request by European Council President Donald Tusk for the parliament to seek a way of passing the legislation must be taken seriously, given the growing security challenges faced by the EU. The proposals were rejected by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee in April 2013, but the full parliament asked the committee to continue its work in search of an agreement.

Mr Kirkhope said he plans to present a revised report in the coming few weeks which places even tougher data protection and rules for the oversight on the use of data.

Currently a number of EU countries (up to 16) make use of PNR data, but without an EU framework airlines have no clarity on how to process the data, and passengers have no clear EU-wide rights to protect booking information such as credit card details, seat number and emergency contact. This data gives intelligence agencies crucial information for tracking paedophiles, organised criminals and terrorists – especially those EU citizens travelling to Syria and Iraq and seeking to return to the EU.

Mr Kirkhope said:

“PNR has been proven as vital in the fight against terrorism, but we have holes in the net that need to be closed. Europe’s patchwork use of PNR create weak points that terrorists can exploit, and it provides airlines and passengers with little clarity as to their rights and responsibilities in processing and storing personal data.
“I want an agreement that safeguards lives and liberties by offering stronger data protection rules whilst also making it much harder for a radicalised fighter to slip back into Europe undetected.

“EU heads of government and home affairs ministers would not ask for this agreement unless there were a clear and present need for it. I will work with my colleagues in the committee to get the broadest agreement as possible. There are a few people in the committee who will never be convinced, but I believe there is a majority that can be found for a revised proposal.”