EU-US PNR agreement formally adopted by the EU Council
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On 16 October, the EU Council formally adopted a decision to sign an interim
agreement with the United States on continuing the transfer of passenger
name record (PNR) data by air carriers to the US Administration.
The interim agreement will replace the Agreement signed in May 2004,
annulled in May 2006 by a judgment of the Court of Justice of the European
Following the process of negotiations, the USA succeeded in obtaining
meaningful changes in the new agreement that meet the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) requirements and that are also based on changes that may
occur in the US legislation.
This implies that any change in the US laws will be reflected in the PNR
data transfer process, meaning that the US will be able to decide on how the
respective data will be processed and by whom.
Therefore, based on these conditions set out in a letter from DHS, a law
such as the US Presidential Executive Order issued on 25 October,
establishing that DHS and other agencies have to promptly provide “terrorism
information” “to the head of each other agency that has counterterrorist
functions” will give the US the right to process PNR data as they see fit.
The new agreement was heavily criticized by the MEPs during the plenary
session on 11 October 2006. Mr. in ‘t Veld (ALDE, NL) deplored the fact
that the President-in-Office and the Commissioner ignored the letter signed
by the Department of Homeland Security, which had given an interpretation of
the agreement going in a different direction from what had been said. She
asked for an explanation for the part of the letter, in accordance with
which, in addition to the purpose of fighting terrorism and related crimes,
data would also be collected to fight infectious disease and other risks,
which meant a considerable widening of the scope. She also considered that
the scope of the data sharing had been widened to include agencies which had
not all been specified.
Mrs. Kaufmann (GUE/NGL, DE) also announced that the agreement was not
acceptable to her political group. She considered it to be scandalous that
data could be transmitted to all US agencies combating terrorism, including
Mr Lambrinidis (PSE, EL) pointed out that the new agreement seemed more
flexible on US obligations than even the agreement that a private company,
SWIFT, had been able to negotiate with the US authorities for the
unacceptable transfer of banking data.
Commissioner Frattini tried to answer all the critics by considering it as a
situation of absolute urgency. If its ratification by all the national
parliaments had been necessary for its entry into force, it would not have
been possible to avoid chaos.
The agreement is to be renegotiated next year and the US administration
intends to extend the period for keeping PNR data to 3 years and a half and
to add more items to the 34 presently agreed on.
“What is particularly outrageous is that if the law changes in the USA the
way the agreement is implemented changes too without any renegotiation –
which is very worrying given the nature of new laws which remove the rights
of suspects including habeaus corpus” says Statewatch editor Tony Bunyan.
Report on debate in the European Parliament (16.10.2006)
EU-USA PNR agreement renegotiated to meet US demands (06.10.2006)
EU-USA PNR agreement (11.10.2006)
Council adopts decision of Agreement with the United States on the continued
use of PNR data (16.10.06)
EDRI-gram : New EU-US interim deal on Passenger Name Record (11.10.2006)
Observatory on the exchange of data on passengers (PNR) with USA