The Data Protection News

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MEPs reactions to the "PNR data" judgment

"This puts European airlines flying passengers in and out of the U.S. in a real dilemma," said Graham Watson, a British member of the European Parliament and chairman of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. "Either they violate EU law and give the U.S. what they want, or they risk the States turning around and saying your airplanes can't come here."
"The European Court is saying yes, the European Parliament was right, that the data transfer agreement is illegal," said Watson. "What will now be needed is some pretty tough talking to get a new agreement in which our concerns about privacy are properly addressed."
"People are very much concerned about the direction that the Bush administration has been taking in these matters", Watson said.
Sophie in 't Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament and a vocal opponent of passenger data transfers, added that the first evaluation of the effectiveness of the trans-Atlantic agreement in fighting terrorism was completed in March of this year but that the report had been kept confidential by agreement of the EU and U.S. governments.
"The one question that has never been answered is, does it actually work?" in 't Veld said. "How many terrorists did they catch? How many international criminals? How many attacks did they prevent? And how many mistakes were made? We do not know because this information has never been made public. It is outrageous."
European lawmakers said they were disappointed that the European Court did not direct the commission and the council to give Parliament joint oversight in approving any new accord. But they hoped that their concerns would be brought out in the new negotiations.
"The court has indicated that the commission should put it forward as a security measure, which still means that the Parliament would not have to be consulted," Watson said. Nonetheless, he said, "I think that it would be very difficult politically for the commission and governments to do this again."
Watson said that he would be meeting with the EU justice and home affairs commissioner, Franco Frattini, this week "to discuss the way forward."

(International Herald Tribune)
Fellow Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford said: "The Commission and Council (EU governments) are hoist with their own petard. The European Parliament has been arguing for years for adequate safeguards when data is transferred in the police and intelligence field. Our victory in this case demonstrates the refusal of MEPs to buckle in the face of transatlantic bullying, and to challenge 'security' proposals which undermine the legitimate interests of the citizens we are elected to represent."
She said MEPs would now be alert for any Washington attempts to replace the EU-wide data processing deal with a series of bilateral deals with national authorities "with similarly inadequate safeguards against misuse of personal data."
(The Independent - on line edition)


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