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EU Parliament agrees to EU-US PNR Agreement

25 April, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Europäisches Parlament stimmt PNR-Abkommen mit den USA zu

On 19 April 2012, MEPs decided on the controversial EU-US Agreement on the use and transfer of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data to the US Department of Homeland Security. A motion for a resolution asking for an opinion from the Court of Justice was rejected and the adoption of Agreement was accepted (409 votes in favour, 226 against and 33 abstentions).

A significant minority of MEPs voted against the deal arguing that the data protection safeguards foreseen in the Agreement do not meet EU standards, that the current proposal has not addressed any of the demands and flaws identified by the European Parliament and that the criteria set in its Resolutions are not met. On the other hand, a majority of ECR (conservative), EPP (conservative) and many S&D (Socialists and Democrats) members argued that it was better to have an Agreement, albeit not entirely satisfactory, than to have no Agreement at all. On this basis, they were prepared to back down from the minimum standards that the Parliament had previously demanded.

The Parliament agreed to the transfer of passengers' flight data to the USA where they are processed and stored for 15 years, abandoning a 9-year long fight for better privacy protections for EU citizens with almost nothing to show for its efforts. In May 2010, the Parliament had initially postponed its vote on an Agreement with the US (applied provisionally since 2007) and raised serious concerns about the general approach to transfers of PNR data to third countries. By taking the decision to back the Agreement, MEPs ignored their own resolutions of May and November 2010 and opinions from the European Data Protection Supervisor, the Article 29 Working Party of national data protection agencies and numerous civil rights groups.

Commissioner Malmström said the new Agreement represented a substantial improvement on the existing Agreement from 2007, providing stronger protection for the right to citizens' privacy - since data will be ”masked out” (i.e. they will remain personally identifiable, but only after being “unmasked”. "Masking" is not defined) six months after a passengers' flight and EU citizens will be informed about the use of their data, they will be able to request access and request the correction or deletion of their PNR data. EU citizens will, however, have no way of enforcing this right.

Rapporteur Sophie in 't Veld (ALDE, NL) withdrew her name from the report, asserting: "The decision of the European Parliament does not reflect my recommendation. Therefore I choose to distance myself from it. It is disappointing that after nine years negotiating with our closest friends and allies, the US, we only got an agreement that gets reluctant support from a divided House”. Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will formally approve the Agreement on 26 April. The deal will replace the 2007 text and will apply for seven years.

European Parliament resolution on PNR (5.05.2010)

European Parliament resolution on PNR (11.11.2010)

EDRi opinion (2012)

EDPS opinion (9.12.2011)

Article 29 opinion (6.01.2012)

Friends of Privacy US – Legal Analysis (01.2012)

(Contribution by Kirsten Fiedler - EDRi)



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