Europarl debate on PNR and data retention

By EDRi · March 10, 2005

On 9 March the European Parliament debated in plenary in Strasbourg about the transfer of passengerdata (PNR) to the US and asked the Commission about the Council plans for mandatory data retention. EU Justice Commissioner Frattini for the first time stated in public that the Commission sees no legal basis for a framework decision from the Council and he personally ‘will try to convince’ the Council of Justice and Home Affairs to withdraw the proposal. “As a consequence, the Commission will present an alternative proposal on data retention based on Article 95 of the Treaty of the European Community by early spring 2005.” Frattini also announced that the Commission will carry out “an impact assessment to determine to what extent the creation of obligations to retain data will have economic implications.”

The Parliament rapporteur on data retention, Alexander Alvaro (German liberal, ELDR), asked Frattini to reflect on the necessity of data retention, but received no answer. “We also have doubts on the necessity and proportionality of European data retention provisions. That is why we ask the Commission whether it supports the four Member States’ initiative also in terms of the content, and not only in terms of the legal basis.” Similar direct questions from the Dutch social-democrat (PSE) MEP Mastenbroek and the German christian-democrat (PPE) MEP Reul – if the Commission had any evidence of the necessity of data retention- remained equally unanswered. The German MEP Kreissl-Dörfler (PSE) reminded Frattini the German national parliament had called on their minister not to agree with any mandatory data retention. He warned the Commissioner control is good, but trust in control is better.

Both on the issue of data retention and on the issue of PNR all fractions asked similarly critical questions, showing remarkable unity on the topic of personal data protection. But Frattini wasn’t inclined to answer beyond the brief statements he had prepared. He said the Commission and US Customs authorities would produce a joint evaluation of the transfer of passenger data to the US within a month and a half, to stay within the year the transfer was agreed upon (28 May 2004). According to Frattini the MEPs should no longer worry about data-mining by US authorities, since the controversial CAPS II program was replaced by ‘Secure Flight’ which currently only covers PNR information about US domestic flights. As far as he knew, no data had been transferred by the US to any third countries.

Overview of questions in the EP about both issues (09.03.2005)