Czechs became Trojan horses for new US visa waiver programme

By EDRi · March 26, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Czech Republic Interior Minister Ivan Langer and U.S. Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff signed on 26 February 2008 in Washington D.C. the
Memorandum of Understanding which is the first step in introducing new
electronic visa programme for all EU countries.

In this Memorandum Czech authorities agreed to “passenger and other
information sharing, screening information concerning known or suspected
terrorists, information to combat terrorism and serious crime, and
information on migration matters” with the US authorities and also promised
to “allow for the further dissemination of transferred information within
the United States Government”. Czech Ministry of Interior agreed “to provide
identifying information that includes biographic and biometric data, to be
used in determining whether persons who intend to travel to the United
States represent a threat to the security, law enforcement, and immigration
interests of the United States.”

The signed document represents a shift in the Czech Republic stance on PNR
Agreement between EU and USA. The government of the Czech Republic approved
the PNR Agreement last summer, but the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs
declared its reservations regarding the parliamentary ratification and
necessity to uphold European data protection standarts. However, in the new
Memorandum of Understanding with the USA, the Czech Ministry of Interior
declares its intention “to collect, analyze, use, and share Advance
Passenger Information (API)” and “to collect, analyze, use, and share
Passenger Name Record (PNR)”.

The document was adopted by the Czech Government within the month after the
U.S. Homeland Security Department senior representative Richard Barth
visited the Czech Republic to have a series of talks on the matter. The
Memorandum of Understanding was not sent for comments to the Czech Data
Protection Authority nor to the Ministry for Human Rights. It was subject to
strong criticism from the European Commission which has insisted that EU
member states should proceed jointly to the debates on visa policy and that
bilateral agreements were not a correct solution. The European Commission
spokesman even said that the Commission had reserved itself the right to
take possible legal steps against Prague. The Agreement was also strongly
criticised by EDRi-member Iuridicum Remedium and some representatives of the
opposition parties in the Czech Parliament.

The Memorandum of Understanding refers to the new American Electronic Travel
Authorization (ETA) system, the details of which are still unclear and,
according to the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, the amount of data to
be provided to that system, as well as the entire procedure, will be subject
to further negotiations in the coming months.

Following the Czech Republic stance on the Memorandum of Understanding with
the USA, a similar bilateral document has been signed so far by other five
new EU member countries – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Slovakia.

Barrot to negotiate U.S. visas with Czechs instead of Frattini (only in
Czech, 18.03.2008)

Czechs view themselves victorious over EC in U.S. visa issues (only in
Czech, 14.03.2008)

Czech leftist opposition criticises Czech-U.S. memorandum (only in Czech,

Czech, U.S. ministers sign memorandum on visas (only in Czech, 26.02.2008)

(contribution by Filip Pospísil – EDRi-member Iuridicum Remedium – Czech