What happened in Parliament on EU PNR from 2011 to early 2015? 

 
 

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The EU PNR proposal, presented by the Commission in February 2011, comes under the "co-decision procedure" (first reading), whereby the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers legislate on an equal footing.

Rejection in committee

The 2011 draft directive was rejected by the Civil Liberties Committee in April 2013 by 30 votes to 25. The issues that the committee debated were, inter alia, the necessity and proportionality of the proposal, its scope as regards offences and as regards international and intra-EU flights, the data retention period, centralised v. decentralised system, obligatory v. facultative system, etc.


MEPs voting against in committee questioned the proportionality of the proposed EU scheme for the collection, use and retention of airline passengers' data (irrespective of whether or not they are suspects) and its compliance with fundamental rights, especially data protection, while those voting in favour highlighted its potential added value for EU counter-terrorism policy, underlining that a EU framework would be better than a patchwork of differing national systems.


In June 2013, Parliament decided in plenary session to refer the matter back to the Civil Liberties Committee, for it to continue its work in search of an agreement.

EU PNR back under the spotlight


Debate on the proposal gained momentum due to concerns over possible threats to the EU's internal security posed by Europeans returning home after fighting abroad for terrorist groups. On 30 August 2014, the European Council called on Parliament and the Council of Ministers to finalise work on the EU PNR proposal. In the aftermath of the January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, this proposal again came under the spotlight.


The Civil Liberties Committee debated the EU PNR proposal again on 11 November 2014. MEPs were still divided on the issue, but most stressed the need to assess the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling annulling the data retention directive, to assess whether existing measures suffice before taking new ones and to put in place adequate data protection safeguards.


"We must put in place our own EU rules and standards (...) as soon as possible", to prevent criminals exploiting gaps in the EU, said the Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK). "Threats to EU security are much greater than they were one year ago" [when the Civil Liberties Committee rejected the Commission proposal], he stressed, adding that he would pursue work on the EU PNR.

European Parliament resolutions on anti-terrorism and on security and on preventing radicalisation


On 11 February 2015, the European Parliament passed a resolution on anti-terrorism measures in which it:

"Commits itself to work towards the finalisation of an EU PNR Directive by the end of the year; therefore urges the Commission to set out the consequences of the ECJ judgment on the Data Retention Directive and its possible impact on the EU PNR Directive; encourages the Council to make progress on the Data Protection package so that trilogues on both – EU PNR Directive and Data Protection Package – could take place in parallel.

Encourages the Commission to invite independent experts from the law enforcement, security and intelligence communities and representatives of Working Party 29 to contribute views and principles, in light of security needs, regarding the necessity and proportionality of the PNR".


This position was reiterated in a resolution on the European Agenda on Security voted on 9 July 2015, in which it:

"Acknowledges the Commission’s urgent call to finalise the work on the adoption of the EU PNR Directive; reiterates its commitment to work towards its finalisation by the end of the year; stresses that the PNR Directive should respect fundamental rights and data protection standards, including the relevant case law of the Court of Justice, while providing an efficient tool at EU level; calls on the Commission to continue to support this process by providing any relevant additional elements for the necessity and proportionality of an EU PNR Directive; asks that any future proposal creating new tools in the field of security, such as PNR, systematically includes mechanisms for the exchange of information and cooperation between Member States".

On 25 November 2015 (after the 13 November Paris terrorist attacks), Parliament voted a resolution on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations in which it:

"Reiterates its commitment to work towards the finalisation of an EU directive on passenger name records (PNR) by the end of 2015 and to guarantee that such a directive will be compliant with fundamental rights and free from any discriminatory practices based on ideological, religious or ethnic stigmatisation, and will fully respect the data protection rights of EU citizens; recalls, however, that the EU PNR directive will be just one measure in the fight against terrorism, and that a holistic, ambitious and comprehensive strategy on counterterrorism and the fight against organised crime, involving foreign policy, social policy, education policy, law enforcement and justice, is required to prevent the recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations".

Negotiations on the data protection reform and on EU PNR


The data protection reform package consists of two draft laws: a general regulation covering the bulk of personal data processing in the EU and a directive on processing data to prevent, investigate, detect or prosecute criminal offences or enforce criminal penalties.


The three-way talks between Parliament, Council and Commission negotiators (“trilogues”) on the data protection regulation started on 24 June 2015, after the Council agreed its general approach on 15 June. The trilogues on the data protection directive kicked-off on 27 October 2015 (Council's general approach was reached on 9 October).


On the EU PNR, the Council agreed its general approach on 26 April 2012. The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee approved the mandate to start negotiations with the Council on 15 July 2015 and the trilogues started on 24 September 2015.