5. The EU-USA Agreement on the Use and Transfer of Passenger Name Records (PNR) to the US Department of Homeland Security
April 22, 2012
“Talent wins games, but teamwork & intelligence win championships.”
What are the ‘PNR’?
For those who are not aware of the situtation, this time, the focus will be on an international agreement between the European Union and the United States. The subject of this agreement covers the collection of the booking data of of the flight passangers, which are the so called Passenger Name Records (hereinafter referred to as PNR). The U.S. intends to collect these data in order to fight against terrorism and other serious international crimes.
As a matter of fact, following the Council’s and the Commission’s line, the plenary of the European Parliament voted for the adoption of the agreement with an overwhelming majority (which means that there were almost double so ‘yes’ votes than ‘no’ votes)
(on the photo: Before the vote, Greens/EFA MEPs and MEPs from the GUE/NGL group staged an action outside the hemicycle to try and convince other groups to reject the agreement. © The Greens/EFA)
Total members: 754
Votes for: 409
Votes against: 226
Didn`t vote: 86
The most important, further details can be read in the following PRESS RELEASE:
I try to collect in my Blog the most popular arguments for and against the agreement, and after collecting the common grounds I will formulate my conclusion.
Arguments for the agreement
Any country has the right to defend itself and as a necessary consequence of the sovereignity, the request for PNR by the US authorities must be respected.
There is already an earlier, existing agreement in force and in application between the two parties and the new one provides more possibilites than the old one.
The fight against international terrorism is a very important goal and also the global security of the EU depends on whether this fight will be effective. The EU has to contribute from its side to this fight.
There is no real alternative of the adoption since with or without such an agreement, the US will collect the required information anyway. The question is whether this collection will be pursuited under the control of the bilateral international law, let’s say according to this agreement.
As a success of the earlier rejection of the first version of the agreement by the EP, this agreement already contains several modifications of the EP, including that the passengers will be informed about this data collection in advance.
Moreover, this is the only effective solution since with the approval of the EP and the Council, the Commission managed to achieve the maximum which was achievable during the negotiations. 27 different negotiations won’t result a more favorable legal framework within a reasonable time limit.
Arguments against the adoption
First of all, this agreement is against the EU law and the EP shouldn’t endorse such a legal solution which are not fully in line with its law system. In a reverse case, the United States never adopted an agreement if it wouldn’t be in line with its own legislation.
The result is a bad-compromise since it does not contain all of the EP’s recommendations and even no-agreement is better than a bad-one.
Although the fight against terrorism is a justified goal, the agreement makes possible to collect PNR data for different purposes (public health, immigration) which go beyond the original aim and this solution cannot be justified with the fight against terrorism.
It is not a real agreement that the US will apply this agreement anyway, since in this case even the legality of an international agreement is highly questionable. The legal approach of the US may cause problems since according to U.S. common law this agreement cannot be regarded as a traditional international agreement.
Since there is already a similar existing agreement with Australia, it is difficult to understand why does not contain this one the same guarantees. Moreover, similar negotiations are ongoing with Canada and the position of the EU will be weaker if the EP adopts this compromise.
Common elements of the divergent positions
It is out of question that the current text is a result of tough negotiations, let’s say a compromise. Thus, it does not contain all of the required EU position.
All participant shared the view that this agreement is far from perfect. There is a need the revise it.
The devil is in the details and it is questionable whether this new agreement is really the best compromise which could have been achieved. But it contains more from the EU position than the previous one. Only the future negotiations with Canada and the experiences of the application will clearly show if it was really a good compromise but the need of further revision in the very soon future is inevitable.
This agreement did not resolve the question of legality of collection of PNR. In the opposite, the real debate starts only now.
For those who are more interested about further details, may I recommend you the concerning entry of one of the official Blogs of the EP which article was written before the voting.
I remain at your disposal.
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