Further delays expected in making EU air travel safer

Brussels bureaucracy could delay plans to introduce the sharing of air travel passenger data between EU states in the fight against international terrorism.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald wants the exchange of data on airline passengers flying between EU countries to be introduced without delay but the convoluted process could take up to two years to implement.

It has already taken four years for a report on the introduction of an EU Airline Passenger Name Records (PNR) system to be given the go-ahead for final negotiation between member states. It was rejected when first presented to parliament in 2011 by British MEP Timothy Kirkhope, but has now been approved.

A recent vote by the European Parliament’s committee on civil liberties backed plans for a PNR on all flights in Europe.

Ireland can currently share information on passengers with non-EU countries, but a similar arrangement does not exist between EU member states.

The UK is supporting Ireland in its campaign to oblige air carriers to transfer the data of passengers on international flights, in and out of the EU, to member states of arrival or departure.

However, while the parliament’s civil rights committee has approved plans for EU passenger name records, some MEPs have warned of a threat to fundamental rights.

Under the new measure, data to be collected would include contact details, travel dates, itinerary and baggage information. It would be stored for up to 30 days, after which only authorised personnel could access it.

According to Sean Kelly, Fine Gael MEP for Ireland South, an effective PNR system will make Europe safer.

“We know from the experience of countries which already have a PNR system that it helps massively in identifying unknown terrorists and criminals and also tracking the movements of known suspects,” he said.

A Department of Justice spokesman yesterday said the parliamentary vote had given a mandate for the opening of negotiations with the EU Council of Ministers and the EU Commission.

“These discussions are due to begin in the autumn, with a view to concluding them before the year’s end,” he said. “Member states will then be required to make provision for the directive within their domestic legislation.”

Ireland has expressed its strong preference for a common EU framework and Ms Fitzgerald has written to all Irish MEPs encouraging them to support the proposed directive.

Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that storing personal data without justification was illegal.


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