The European Court of Justice had previously ruled against plans to collect and retain passenger name records, arguing it would be illiegal to collect data on people not under suspicion of breaking the law.
But following the terrorist killings in Paris, it was back on the table after discussions in Riga between the European Commission and the Latvian government, which has just taken over the six-month EU presidency.
A special meeting of justice ministers may be held next week in Brussels to review measures to track the movements of foreign fighters, many of them EU citizens fighting in Syria, and to counter the radicalisation of young people.
The PNR draft law sees airlines handing over data such as travel dates, itinerary, ticket information, contact details and method of payment to EU countries that could be retained and used by police in preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting serious crime.
Europol— the umbrella police organisation — could also see its role of liaising between EU countries’ police forces increased, and also better co-ordination of border controls, lost documents and the movements of returned foreign fighters.
All these issues will be on the agenda for foreign ministers when they meet in Brussels on Monday week and will form a main plank of discussions for justice ministers meeting in Riga at the end of the month.
As flags were lowered to half mast in Riga and Brussels. The Latvian prime minister, Laimdota Straujuma, said that the EU could not avoid dealing with terrorism issues. “We must show that we are ready to defend the values of humanism and those included in the slogan of liberty, equality and fraternity,” she said.
She said they had come up with a whole list of measures to be taken at the European level and said that ministers from the member states and the Commission will work on these. “We need to take action to avoid terrorism destroying the trust we have in one another and the values we share”.
However Commission president Jean Claude Juncker cautioned that there should not be a rush to react. “In Europe it is time for silence, not yet for action. My experience shows that one should not react immediately with new proposals, new legislation, as you can get it wrong by going too far or not far enough”.
But he added the Commission will be making planned proposals in February to improve the Schengen system that allows free travel between most member states, improve co-operation between Europol and national agencies fighting terrorism.
Ms Straujuma said she will ask the European Parliament to support the PNR system when she addresses them in Strasbourg next week.