European Parliament slams EU-USA agreement on passenger data

By EDRi · April 7, 2004

The European Parliament has rejected the existing ‘agreement’ between the USA and the EU on the transfer of airline passenger data. During a plenary session on 31 March Parliament adopted a resolution prepared by MEP Johanna Boogerd-Quaak.

The resolution calls upon EU Member States to require airlines and travel agencies to obtain passengers’ consent for the transfer of data and asks the EU commission to withdraw the draft decision which is the current ‘legal’ basis for the transfer of data. Parliament criticizes the Commission’s decision because it goes ‘against the principles of proportionality and of data quality’ and ‘does not grant all passengers the protection which is afforded to US citizens’. In the resolution the Parliament reserves the right to appeal to the Court of Justice when the European Commission finalizes its agreement with the USA.

Just a week later, on 6 April, the European Parliament Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) rejected the Council’s proposed ‘light international agreement’ on the transfer of passenger data between the EU and the USA. The LIBE Committee recommends that Parliament will vote against the agreement on the grounds “that Parliament is only consulted on the international agreement, while it could rightfully be argued that Parliament should have full assent”.

“To conclude, the rapporteur believes that there is a very clear and simple logic: If Parliament does not believe that the US offers adequate protection of passenger data, it cannot and should not accept the international agreement, which would oblige airlines to transfer (or give access to) the PNR data to the US administration.”

The double rejection is the result of the Commission’s decision to follow a two-tier approach: First, to adopt a draft decision declaring that PNR data are adequately protected in the USA and second, to propose a ‘light international agreement’, which will oblige the airlines to give access to the data and authorise the US administration to pull the data from the EU territory.

To make things even more complicated, Parliament also rejected a Spanish proposal that would require airlines operating within the EU to provide passenger data to governments in the EU country of arrival. With this decision the Parliament applies the same standard of data protection as it has used to reject an EU-USA agreement.

European Parliament resolution about the level of protection (25.03.2004)

LIBE draft report on the proposal for a Council decision on transfer of PNR-data to the US (30.03.2004)

Proposal for a Council decision on transfer of PNR-data to the US (17.03.2004)

Draft Council Directive on inner-EU communication of passenger data (23.03.2004)