Sunday, 10 August 2008

EU working on Passenger Name Record (PNR)

While the news have recently covered the discussion about the exchange of passenger data between the USA and the European Union, the European Union itself is working on a proper Passenger Name Record (PNR).

The proposal for a respective draft regulation (document provided by had been presented by the European Union Commission in November.

In a recently published EU Council document for the Multidisciplinary Group on Organised Crime (MDG), the French EU-Council presidency outlines the state of discussions and the further tasks. The initial considerations are:
It is paradoxical that while the European Union has agreed to transfer PNR data to third countries, it has not yet passed legislation enabling it to reap the benefits itself of such a system, which, as the experience of several Member States reveals, is an effective tool. It is naturally necessary to ensure that the European PNR system reflects the Union's commitment to fully respecting fundamental rights.
On this basis, several topics have been identified that need to be discussed:
  • FLEXIBILITY: It is necessary to delimit the margin of manoeuvre that Member States may be allowed in complying with future European standards adopted jointly;
  • FUCTIONAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL SCOPE: At this stage of the proceedings the Group has opted for restricting the application of the European PNR system to air transport;
  • PURPOSES OF THE PNR: a) The possible inclusion of purposes relating to integrated border management; b) Possible extension of the system's purpose of preventing and punishing terrorist and organised crime - already covered by the Commission proposal- to other serious crime;
  • FUNCTIONING OF THE EUROPEAN PNR: collecting and using the the PNR data;
On the basis of these issues presented by the French Presidency, the Council will continue its discussions.

In an article by Statewatch discussing the PNR regulation, editor Tony Bunyan (photo) comments:
"This is yet another measure that places everyone under surveillance and makes everyone a "suspect" without any meaningful right to know how the data is used, how it is further processed and by whom. Moreover, the "profiling" of all airline passengers has no place in a democracy."
Meanwhile, British news report that the British government is dissatisfied with the European plan, quoting a Home Secretary document:
As currently drafted, there is a real risk that the EU PNR proposal would degrade e-Borders [explanation] by prohibiting the use of PNR data for combating immigration offences.

'We will therefore lobby strongly for the framework decision not to preclude the use of PNR for this purpose.'
It will be interesting to see what we will get in the end. I hope that the European Parliament will have a strong word to say on the final regulation, although it seems as if the is only subject to a simple consultation procedure.

If any MEP or MEP assistant is reading this, I would be more than glad to hear about the state of discussions in the European Parliament!