Fabian Demicoli

Backing for EU data agreement

The European Union's interior ministers are preparing to agree next week the broad outlines of a scheme to collect and analyse data from airline passengers travelling into and out of EU airports. 

The scheme, proposed in February 2011 by Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for home affairs, would oblige airlines to forward passenger name records (PNR), including addresses and credit card numbers, to national authorities for potential use in criminal investigations.

National governments are keen on having EU-wide rules on the collection and analysis of PNR, even though only a handful of them systematically collect PNR at present.

The member states are backing a British proposal to amend the draft directive so that governments are free to decide the purposes for which PNR can be used. Malmström's proposal limited the use of PNR to terrorism and other serious crimes.

Peter Hustinx, the European data-protection supervisor, last year issued a negative opinion on the necessity and proportionality of the Commission's proposal. National data-protection authorities share that opinion.

The ministers' agreement, to be concluded at a justice and home affairs council in Luxembourg next week (26-27 April), would pave the way for talks with the European Parliament, whose backing is required for the proposed directive to become law.

MEPs are expected today (19 April) to approve a controversial PNR agreement with the United States. The agreement with the US is not linked to the proposal for an EU PNR system, but has raised some of the same concerns.

At their meeting next week, the interior and justice ministers will also discuss asylum issues and management of the Schengen area.

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