Yesterday afternoon a provisional agreement was reached between the European Parliament and Council on the stall proposal to create an EU passenger name record system, to access and store the data of air passengers travelling in the EU (1). Commenting on the deal and in the context of the council of EU justice and home affairs ministers on the EU response to terrorism, Green home affairs spokesperson Jan Philipp Albrecht said:
“It is regrettable that the European Parliament's negotiators have caved in to the demands of EU governments and given the green light to an EU PNR system. The blanket collection and retention of all air passengers' data, without suspicion, is nothing more than a placebo, with no evidence it will improve security. With an estimated cost of €500 million, it is an expensive diversion from real solutions to combating terrorism where resources are badly needed, like for police and security services and cooperation between the different authorities across Europe. At the very least, EU governments must ensure that this new PNR system is consistent with the ruling of the European Court of Justice on data retention.
"To truly address the terrorist threat, we need to tackle the financing of and support for terrorism. This can also entail criminalising the participation in training for terrorist activities or 'foreign fighters'. It is important to establish a precise definition of exactly who, in what circumstances and for what activities would fall under this category. The definition of terrorism cannot be a black box, which can be moulded according to different circumstances. The initiative of the European Commission to tackle the illegal arms trade is an important step. Justice and home affairs ministers should set out a clear timescale for implementing this."
(1) The only open point in the agreement to be clarified is the period of time after which passengers' data will be stored with pseudonyms, as opposed to their full name. Once finalised, and following a vote in the European Parliament vote to confirm the agreement, the system would enter into force in early 2016, with EU member states to implement the system within two years.