Index 
 Previous 
 Next 
 Full text 
Procedure : 2011/0382(NLE)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0099/2012

Texts tabled :

A7-0099/2012

Debates :

PV 19/04/2012 - 4
CRE 19/04/2012 - 4

Votes :

PV 19/04/2012 - 6.5
CRE 19/04/2012 - 6.5
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0134

Debates
Thursday, 19 April 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

4. EU-USA agreement on the use and transfer of PNR to the US Department of Homeland Security (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
MPphoto
 

  President. –The next item is the recommendation (A7-0099/2012), on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the United States of America and the European Union on the use and transfer of Passenger Name Records to the United States Department of Homeland Security (17433/2011 – C7-0511/2011 – 2011/0382(NLE)) (Rapporteur: Sophia in ‘t Veld).

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sophia in 't Veld, rapporteur. Mr President, today we are at the conclusion of a process which started in March 2003. We have been working on this transatlantic data sharing deal for nine years, and I think that – whatever the outcome of today’s vote – one conclusion that we can already draw is that it is telling and disappointing that, after nine years of negotiations with our closest friend and ally, we can only come up with an agreement that commands half-hearted support from a divided House. I therefore think that, whatever today’s outcome, we need to have a closer look at how we deal with our transatlantic friends and at the position of the European Union in the transatlantic partnership. We need to reflect on whether we are not weak compared with our partner.

As you all know, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted a couple of weeks ago and – to my regret – rejected my recommendation to vote against the EU-US agreement, so the position of the LIBE committee is to recommend adoption of the agreement. However, I think that everybody – or almost everybody, including those who will vote in favour today – still has a number of questions.

Firstly, I would like to say something about a new element, namely the declaration of the European Commission, which we received yesterday and which, as I see it, does not change anything: it does not contain any new elements. It is only the European Commission’s interpretation and is not binding on the US, so it does not make us change our minds. With regard to the GUE resolution proposing to submit this agreement to the Court of Justice of the European Union: although I have great sympathy for it and it is very tempting, I am a Democrat and I am very reluctant to outsource political decision-making to the courts, and I think that this House should take its own responsibility.

I said there are still a couple of questions that I would like to put to the Commission. The Commission has its own interpretation of Article 4 on the purpose limitation, but I am still curious to find out – and I am sure many colleagues here would like to know – how you conclude that systematic use of the data for other purposes is explicitly excluded. Which words in Article 4 lead you to that conclusion? How do you conclude that the use of PNR data for public health purposes, immigration policies and customs is explicitly excluded, and how is the use of the data for those purposes based on Articles 82 and 87 on police and justice cooperation?

I think that much has been said about the retention periods. I would also like to ask the Commission about PUSH and PULL. You say that PULL will only be used in a very limited number of exceptional cases, but I would like to put some figures before you that we received from the Association of European Airlines. Just a few figures from 2010 and 2011 show that there are ad hoc PULLs tens of thousands of times a day. In December 2010, for example, there were 82 500 individual ad hoc PULLs a day. I would like to know: how you can conclude that that is exceptional?

Concerning judicial redress: the agreement specifically states that no rights may be derived from this agreement, either for individuals or for other legal persons. How can you come to the conclusion that there is full judicial redress for EU citizens? I realise my time is up and I would like to save the rest of my time for after the debate.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Morten Bødskov, President-in-Office of the Council. (DA) Mr President, Commissioner Malmström, honourable Members, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak here during the European Parliament’s debate on this important matter. I would like to focus on some of the more overarching considerations that I believe the draft agreement gives rise to. I will leave an account of the more technical aspects of the agreement to Commissioner Malmström.

As you know, the question of the exchange of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data between the EU and the US has been on the transatlantic agenda for many years. At the same time, we have constantly received new insight into the importance of the use of PNR data in preventing and combating serious cross-border crime. In my view, there can be no doubt that PNR data constitute a very important tool for the law enforcement authorities’ efforts to deal with serious crime. We have a whole host of specific examples of this. This does not mean, however, that we should not lay down requirements for those authorities that wish to make use of PNR data.

Considerable importance should always be attached to protecting the privacy of our citizens in connection with the prevention and combating of serious crime. This is the case, of course, regardless of whether we are talking about authorities in the EU or in third countries with which we have close cooperation in respect of the combating of crime. This draft agreement contains a number of new and improved guarantees – guarantees that the US authorities have undertaken to respect when PNR data is handled. The agreement is not 100% perfect, but the US authorities have gone to great lengths to meet us half way in a number of key areas. I am therefore convinced that the agreement constitutes the best result possible under the circumstances. Let us also remember that the agreement we are debating here today does not signify the end of the transatlantic dialogue on the use of PNR data.

I would like to conclude my comments by expressing my considerable appreciation for the fact that Parliament has been prepared time and again to fight for the interests of European citizens. Few matters demonstrate this more clearly than the agreement that we are to vote on now. Thus, there can be no doubt that the prepared agreement text that we have in front of us here today is a result of Parliament’s very strong desire for the agreement to be renegotiated. That is precisely why I call on you to support the conclusion of this agreement. By doing so, you will not only be ensuring better protection for the rights and interests of European citizens and air carriers, you will also be sending a clear signal that, following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union is capable of getting tangible results. At the same time, we will be able together to demonstrate to the world around us that the EU institutions stand together when there are difficult issues to be resolved.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, the Commission recommends that Parliament give its consent to the new agreement for three reasons. Firstly, because – as the Minister said – the law enforcement authorities need PNR to address the security threats that the US is facing. Secondly, because this agreement is a major improvement to the existing agreement that is now running and which you asked me to renegotiate. Thirdly, because it is difficult to see any alternatives which would better serve the interests of EU passengers and air carriers.

With regard to the necessity of PNR data, the Commission has presented evidence to Members of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on several occasions. It shows that PNR data is important in fighting terrorism and a major tool in fighting drug and people trafficking. For example, PNR has played a pivotal role in cracking some recent cases of terrorism – the Mumbai plotter David Headley, the New York City subway plotter, the Times Square plotter – and we have all read about the atrocities that could have been perpetrated in these cases.

Secondly, this is a major improvement to the existing agreement from 2007. It is a clear step forward from the draft agreement that the Commission presented to the LIBE committee in May, where we asked your advice. In that regard we did a good collective job in pushing the US to make further concessions. This is a good example of how the new Treaty of Lisbon works: the three institutions working together with very clear signals from the European Parliament and the Council so that the Commission could be very clear in its negotiations with the Americans.

This good collective work brought more clarity, stronger reciprocity and a better protection of passengers’ rights to privacy, without undermining the effect of the PNR system and security on both sides of the Atlantic. It also reflects the concerns that you expressed in your resolution two years ago and respects fundamental rights and the principle of proportionality. Let me outline some details of this agreement.

The agreement, unlike the current one, is one single legally-binding text written in ‘proper treaty language’. It strengthens reciprocity and security on the EU side by obliging the US to share leads derived from PNR data with the law enforcement authorities in the EU. It sets strict limits on the purposes for which PNR data may be used. This is a concern for many Members, as I am aware, and I also heard the objections by the rapporteur. I would therefore like to read out the declaration on behalf of the Commission:

‘The Commission considers that the agreement sets forth a precise description of purpose and scope, clarifying the purposes for which PNR will be collected and used. The definition of terms and the detailed description of the uses of PNR in Article 4 ensure that the purpose limitation of the agreement is in line with relevant EU laws on the protection of personal data and privacy. The purposes for which PNR can be collected and used are limited to the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and certain transnational crimes.’ The agreement provides, in Article 4 (1), the first detailed definition of the terms ‘terrorist offences’ and ‘transnational crimes’.

Article 4 (2) of the agreement allows for the potential use of PNR on a case- by-case basis for the protection of vital interests of any individual, or if ordered by a court. These uses are, both by their nature and in view of the experiences we had in the joint reviews, very exceptional. In Article 4 (3) the agreement clarifies how PNR may become relevant when passengers travel to or from the US. In this regard the agreement merely clarifies that PNR may, in accordance with its scope and purpose, be processed to identify persons who require further examination. This does not constitute a further purpose for the processing of PNR data.

Article 4 (4) explains that the agreement is without prejudice to domestic law enforcement, judicial powers or proceedings, where other violations of the law of indications are therefore detected in the course of the use and processing of PNR.

This provision aims to clarify that domestic powers are not affected by the agreement in cases where other offences are detected in the course of using PNR. This clarification does not affect or extend the purposes for the use of PNR.

In the context of the joint review and evaluation mechanism set out in Article 23 of the agreement, and without prejudice to other matters that might be raised in this mechanism, the Commission will seek detailed information and pay particular attention to the respect of the provisions of Article 4 of the agreement. More specifically, the Commission will review respect of the uses of PNR under Article 41 of the agreement and request information on any cases in which PNR has been used, either for the protection of vital interests of any individual or, where ordered by a court, under Article 4 (2) of the agreement.

The Commission commits to keeping Parliament fully informed of these and other aspects and to presenting a full report to Parliament and to the Council, as foreseen by Article 23 (3), without delay at the end of the first joint review and of other subsequent reviews. If, following the joint review, Parliament states in a resolution that there are serious deficiencies in the application of the agreement and calls for the suspension or the termination of the agreement, the Commission commits to considering Parliament’s political request with the utmost attention while deciding on whether to make a proposal, in full respect of the procedures and competences defined by Article 218 of the Treaty.

Having examined the scope, let me return to some other points. The agreement reduces the retention period for which PNR data may be stored by US authorities from 15 to 10 years for serious transnational crimes. Only for terrorist offences would the data be used for 15 years as under the existing agreement and – an important new element – PNR data will be depersonalised six months after it is sent by the carriers, making those data elements which can be linked to an individual passenger invisible.

There are also important safeguards on data provisions. In order to prevent illegal profiling, in particular, the agreement prohibits automated decisions affecting passengers. A human being must always take the final decision. New rules on data security are included to prevent data being lost or disclosed to the public. The agreement clarifies and strengthens passengers’ right to access, correct and, where relevant, delete the PNR data stored in the US databases. It also contains a detailed provision on administrative and judicial redress under US law. The rules on sharing onward transfers of PNR data have been tightened. This can happen only on a case-by-case basis, not in bulk, and only for the specific purposes of the agreement itself.

The agreement is very clear on the method by which PNR data can be transferred: all air carriers must transfer data by the ‘push’ method within two years. The aviation industry has assured the Commission that air carriers are prepared to make the necessary investment in that timeframe. ‘Pulling’ of data by the US authorities will not be entirely prohibited, but the conditions governing this are precisely defined and limited to exceptional cases. In the current agreement, ‘push’ is not the norm. Now it becomes the norm. ‘Pulling’ is very exceptional and its use will be logged and, of course, checked thoroughly by the Commission.

Finally, there are provisions to ensure that the agreement is correctly applied. Several bodies from within and outside the US Department of Homeland Security will have independent oversight over it. We will have regular joint reviews and a full evaluation after four years. In order to make this effective, there will be records and logs of processing of PNR data. There are also clear rules on the resolution of disputes between the EU and the US and on suspension and termination of the agreement.

I recognise that many Members still have questions and think this is a difficult decision. I fully respect that and am ready to respond to all your questions. This is an international agreement. Like all international agreements, it is not 100% perfect. We have to give and take. The Commission has presented to Parliament and the LIBE Committee a draft agreement from May. There you gave clear instructions on where to make changes. We went back to the US and achieved a lot of those changes: on purpose limitation, scope, retention periods and other points. We now have an agreement that fully respects EU law.

This brings me to my final point, on the absence of better alternatives. Further negotiations with the US are not a real option – so what will happen if you vote it down today? What will the consequences be? It would be damaging for the transatlantic relationship because this data will be collected anyway and we would lose a very important chance to influence US policy on the use of that data. Secondly, we would leave the air carriers in a very difficult situation because they will be required to transfer the data, but there would be no legal basis in the EU for this transfer. So this would leave us in legal limbo, with potential lawsuits by passengers and a very difficult situation. Finally, and most importantly, we would fail to protect the interests of the more than 48 million passengers flying from the EU to the US every year. In the absence of the agreement, there would be no binding international rules to protect the passengers’ privacy.

One cannot exclude the possibility that there will be bilateral agreements with the US between our Member States, but I do not believe that the Member States could bilaterally obtain a level of protection of passengers’ rights that goes beyond what we have achieved today. For all these reasons, I ask you to endorse the new agreement today.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Axel Voss, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, I would like to thank the rapporteur for her dedicated and exemplary work. I agree with many of the criticisms expressed by Ms in 't Veld and have supported them in the past, in part at least. We always reach a point, however, where people need to take responsibility. On behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and on my own behalf I would state that we now need to deal with the realities of the situation, rather than taking recourse to ideological or theoretical positions.

The fact is that the US has been gathering this PNR data for 10 years without a single complaint. It is also the case that none of us wants to put a stop to data traffic, even if we are not in favour of the agreement. You have just said so yourself. Nor do we want to bring air travel between Europe and the US to a standstill. The fact is also that the US has a right to know who enters its territory. In my opinion, it is also a fact that the legal services have all made oral indications that this agreement is better than the alternatives. This is the reason why we need people to take responsibility here. After all, that is what we have been elected to do.

We need to take responsibility for our citizens, as otherwise they would be abandoned with little protection and few rights. We need to take responsibility for the airlines, as otherwise, as the Commissioner also pointed out, they would be left with absolutely no legal certainty. We also need to take responsibility for the EU as a contracting partner in questions of data protection and security, as well as responsibility for a good balance between security and data protection. Hence we are generally in favour of this agreement, even though it is by no means perfect. If we want to protect our citizens and offer them better data protection, then we also need to take responsibility here and vote in favour of this agreement.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sophia in 't Veld, blue-card question. − Mr President, I have a question for Mr Voss and his political group.

He rightly points out that there needs to be a legal base for the transfer of passenger data, so I wonder why this House has not reacted to the fact that, for three and a half years now, data has been transferred to Canada in the absence of any legal base and that, under the US secure flight programme, data is being transferred from Europe to the United States for flights not going to the United States, while this House does not seem to care.

Why is it that we want a legal base in one case and not in the other cases?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Axel Voss (PPE), blue-card answer.(DE) Mr President, on the one hand, we always want to see a legal basis. It is naturally unfortunate at present that things are not working out with Canada as we might have wished. On the other hand, overflight rights naturally involve crossing into the sovereign territory of another country. Naturally this also requires the relevant legal basis. Accordingly, it is absolutely correct to say that we need a basis We intend working towards achieving this. We are not closing ourselves off from any legal basis in this case. We simply need to wait and see what the negotiations with Canada may bring. This is what we are waiting for and this is also why we intend to do all we can to ensure that an appropriate legal basis is established.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Claude Moraes, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, speaking for the S&D Group, we will be having a free vote. In committee there was a small majority in favour of the PNR Agreement, but you will hear arguments against that agreement from our shadow and others.

I will be speaking in favour of this PNR Agreement and will vote for it, for the following reasons. Our group had three critical aims. We felt that this agreement, despite – as others, including the Commissioner, have said – no international agreement being perfect, was one whose scope was just too wide and went beyond terrorism; we said there was too long a retention period; and that it was taking in ‘pull’ methods as well as ‘push’ methods. In the end, two out of three of the critical key concessions were included.

Two out of three was enough, in my opinion, for us to say that this agreement was enough. That was a very difficult judgment to make, but the scope was substantially narrowed: minor crimes were excluded and the retention period for serious crimes reduced. Also, although the USA has not fully agreed to move fully on the pull / push issue, data will now only be pulled in exceptional cases where there is a serious and urgent threat. This is by no means perfect, as the Commissioner and Minister have said, particularly as regards the push / pull issue, but we had to reach a conclusion at some point, following difficult negotiations.

In committee, a small majority from my group felt that, while this agreement did not meet all our requests, it is undeniable that the text has been fundamentally improved. It constitutes the only legal and binding framework for the transfer of EU-US PNR data. A ‘no’ to this agreement, as many have said and will say, will leave a clear position of 27 bilateral agreements with no common rules, no EP monitoring and citizens being left in a legal void and being subject to contrasting regimes, which I believe is not in the interest of European Union citizens.

Finally, concerning difficulties about setting a precedent, the agreement clearly states that it will not constitute a precedent for other agreements in this field. That is, in my view, satisfying when we look at the agreement as a whole. This is not a perfect situation, and what we have to say to the Commissioner – and this is certainly true of those in my group who would want to support this agreement – is that the Commission should take Parliament seriously when it reviews this agreement.

Commissioner, we do not have the political power to terminate this agreement if it goes wrong and strays into other areas. If we support this agreement then you must support us and take us seriously, politically, should it go wrong or go beyond the remit that you have set.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Renate Weber, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, colleagues, this is a controversial agreement because, while its aim – fighting terrorists through preventive means – is welcome, it undeniably interferes with the protection of other equally important values such as privacy and data protection. I am not the only person saying that the agreement violates this right and EU legislation; the European Data Protection Supervisor demonstrated it in a thorough analysis. What is more, the scope of the agreement goes far beyond combating terrorism.

Many say it is a better agreement than the previous one – which only means it is less bad than the previous one – but it remains an agreement with severe consequences for our fundamental rights. I respect the fact that the American authorities and lawmakers are interested in their citizens’ rights, but I believe that we are entitled to care above all about the protection of our own European citizens’ rights.

It has been said that, without this agreement, our air carriers will violate EU legislation on data protection because if they want to land in the USA they will continue to transfer data. But you must remember that the agreement obliges the air carriers to implement the ‘push’ obligations in two years, which means investing a huge amount of money in equipment and software to transmit all data to the US authorities in real time.

What if some of the air carriers are not able to implement this obligation? Big companies will probably do it, but either smaller companies will be forced out of business by this expenditure or the current situation will continue. They will allow the extraction of data by the American authorities directly from their computers.

I have never believed that a bad law is better than no law.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jan Philipp Albrecht, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, about three years ago, just a few metres from this spot, the European Court of Human Rights issued a decisive judgment on the relation between criminal prosecution interests and the right to respect for private and family life. In the case of Marper v. the United Kingdom, the Court declared the gathering of personal data in national databases without clear evidence of need and without stringent restrictions to be unlawful.

Two years ago, just a few kilometres from here, the German Federal Constitutional Court made a finding in relation to the retention of telecommunication data and came to the conclusion that only the most extraordinary circumstances can justify an obligation on private businesses to retain personal data without cause, even for just a few months. Shortly after this, the European Parliament refused to approve an agreement that obviously failed to comply with these criteria in any way. In a resolution, we clearly indicated that data retention for up to 15 years was disproportionate. We also indicated that the use of such collection of data without due cause could only be permitted within the most stringent restrictions, for example to combat terrorism or organised crime. We also made it clear that wholesale searching, or profiling, of information must not be permitted.

Ms Malmström, this agreement allows all data to be used and processed. It is not a question of accessing isolated data, but rather of processing all data. That is the principle that underlies this measure: a wholesale search, automatically comparing all information relating to anyone travelling to the US with threat profiles. We must be very clear about this: such searches openly contravene European law. At this point I need to direct a question to the Conservatives and Social Democrats in the European Parliament: Are you not ashamed of yourselves? Are you not ashamed of flouting the law so openly? Do you really think that the US Congress would debate the sovereignty of our laws with the same degree of commitment? That is absurd.

What concerns us here is not the question of whether the US can decide for itself what measures it may or may not take, but rather whether or not we Europeans are willing to legitimate these measures. I must be honest: we cannot legitimate this. A large number of citizens will be very disappointed if the European Parliament approves this agreement today after 10 years of debate, despite the fact that the provisions it contains are unchanged. For this reason, I can only urge you to uphold the honour of Parliament and vote no.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Krisztina Morvai (NI), blue-card question. Mr President, just a point of clarification. I agreed with you almost completely, especially taking into consideration the large-scale and serious violations of human rights committed by the government we are talking about, namely the US Government.

I just want to seek clarification on the issue of proportionality as opposed to purpose, because I think that for many people – especially those who are not lawyers – it might be disturbing to think that giving up some of our privacy and data protection rights might be proportionate to the noble aim of preventing terrorism. I think this is something we all agree upon. But the question here is: can this noble purpose really be achieved by the measures taken here? That is where I have a problem and that is why I am going to vote no today.

I want to ask your opinion on the issue of proportionality as opposed to purpose. I want to ask you for a clarification on that.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jan Philipp Albrecht (Verts/ALE), blue-card answer. (DE) Thank you for your supplementary question. Naturally the combating of terrorism and organised crime is a necessary objective and also, in my opinion, an important measure that we in the European Union must pursue – in close partnership with the US. There is no doubt about that.

The question is: can this be achieved through the mass analysis of data belonging to numerous innocent individuals? Do we not rather need greater cooperation in investigating genuine suspects, in other words cooperation between police authorities when dealing with suspicious situations? We are moving in the wrong direction by spending more and more money on analysis centres and data centres where more and more innocent people are analysed, while at the same time cutting the resources available to the local police working on the investigation of genuine suspects. This should not be the case. We need further debate on this issue here in the European Parliament.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Timothy Kirkhope, on behalf of the ECR Group. Mr President, those who report on the activities of this Parliament have attached the word ‘controversial’ to this agreement, but the improvements to the text during our long deliberations in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) have received support from across five political groups, as well as from the Council and the Commission. I disagree with the rapporteur. These improvements are significant. Despite that, certain individuals and certain groups in Parliament do not trust the judgement and legal authority of the Commission.

A negotiation between two sides, two parties, two countries or two allies will never result in a perfect agreement and we cannot, and should not, expect that. However, the United States is our most trusted third-country partner, whose security vulnerabilities and recent history cannot, and should not, be ignored. Neither can we ignore the proven success and value of using PNR data in the prevention and prosecution of terrorism and of the most serious of crimes in many of our European countries.

We should also ask ourselves what the alternative is – 27 bilateral agreements, no legal uniformity or clarity for air carriers, no rights of redress for our passengers? No, those are neither good nor acceptable alternatives to this House. Members here who do not see this agreement as necessary must explain that to their electorates, but I and my group will be voting in favour in the knowledge that, at the end of the day, whilst it may not be perfect, this agreement is an integral and vital tool in the fight to ensure safety and security for all European citizens. Our citizens have a right to be able to travel safely.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Graham Watson (ALDE), blue-card question. Mr President, concern for protecting our citizens against acts of terror is something we share with our partners across the Atlantic.

Clearly, we must work together in this endeavour, but we must do so on the basis of mutual respect. I would like to put a question to Mr Kirkhope. With all his experience in this area, does he believe that, if we were to ask the United States lawmakers to vote against their own laws and the principles on which those laws are based, and to assist us in such a way, they would agree to do so?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Timothy Kirkhope (ECR), blue-card answer. Mr President, I love hypothetical debates, particularly while we are discussing something which is of such importance. I can say with some certainty that, although I am not American, I do know a lot of legislators in the United States – as does Sir Graham – and I am pretty confident that the United States legislators would decide to do whatever was necessary to protect not only their own citizens but the other citizens of the Free World with whom they have dealings.

That is my experience of the United States. It may be not everybody’s but that is where I believe they would put their priorities.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE), blue-card question. Mr President, I have two brief questions for Mr Kirkhope. You said we have to accept the authority of the Legal Department of the European Commission. I ask you: do you accept the authority of the European Data Protection Supervisor and the Article 29 Working Group, who have both pointed out that this agreement is a violation of EU law?

My second question: you rightfully referred to security purposes, but I would like to know why the Conservatives – who are always concerned about small government and stating their preference for it over big government – allow the systematic use of these data for public health purposes, immigration policies and customs policies?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Timothy Kirkhope (ECR), blue-card answer. Mr President, I have no intention of answering the second question as I think that it is a matter for another occasion, and no doubt Miss in ’t Veld and I can have a private talk about that.

As far as lawyers and opinions are concerned, I – as a lawyer – am used to giving opinions. I am not always certain that my opinion as an individual lawyer will be followed any more than I believe that any particular set of lawyers has got some kind of monopoly on correctness and appropriateness.

My view is that the Commission’s lawyers are the main lawyers that we should be looking at in this particular context, because it is the Commission – as guardian of the treaties – that has to actually enforce matters on behalf of us all in relation to the international agreements that we conclude.

So my view is that the Commission’s legal opinion was the main opinion that we should have relied on – and which I do rely on – and whether other opinions would be as important is a matter for the context.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Gerard Batten, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, we see increasing moves by governments to limit our personal freedom and privacy, citing the need to protect us from the threat of terrorism and organised crime. However, we have to be extremely cautious in allowing our freedoms to be removed, because once they are gone it is very hard to restore them.

We also have to ask if we have any particular reason to trust our governments. Legislation intruding into the citizen’s right to privacy should be proportionate, limited and controlled. Once it is enacted we need to be sure that its scope cannot be widened at the whim of government.

This kind of legislation should never have been proposed by the Commission in the first place. It probably comes under the jurisdiction of international law. It should be devised under international agreements by sovereign nation states. The legislation is also unacceptable because it is one-way traffic between Europe and the USA. We have to give them our citizens’ personal information, but they do not have to supply theirs.

The motion for a resolution wants the final decision to be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union to rule on its legality and compatibility with the EU Treaties. The UK Independence Party’s MEPs will vote against this legislation. We will not vote in favour of the motion as we do not accept the legitimacy of the European Court.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Cornelia Ernst, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left intends voting against this agreement because it nullifies an elementary right of EU citizens, namely the right to the protection of personal data. Ms Malmström, I can only shake my head in despair at what you have had to say. You seem to be chasing an imaginary level of security that does not exist and that will not come into existence with this agreement or any other agreement of this kind.

We are not talking about a small amount of travel information about European citizens, but rather about the combination of this information with other long-established databases, enabling profiling and thus the monitoring of individual citizens. We reject this agreement because no adequate evidence has been provided – not even by you, Ms Malmström – of the possible benefits of this agreement. We also oppose it because proportionality and purpose limitation are taken to absurd lengths when millions of data records belonging to innocent citizens are retained. We reject it because the use of this data goes far beyond the purpose you have indicated – the fight against terrorism and the combating of serious, organised, cross-border crime.

Article 4 contains an escape clause that also needs to be discussed. This clause significantly widens the purpose for which data can be used. We cannot support this agreement because it involves the processing and forwarding of the PNR data to an authority, the Department of Homeland Security, where the intelligence services hold power, and even to third countries; none of this can be controlled by Parliament, so that there is no guarantee of transparency. We reject the agreement because the period for which the data is to be retained goes against all understanding of proportionality and appropriateness, whereby even sensitive data can be retained for 30 days and possibly even longer. This is scandalous.

It is quite impossible for our group to vote in favour because there is no serious provision for judicial remedy. The judicial remedy provisions contained in the agreement are laughable. All that is offered is a limited right to information and it is not even possible to take legal recourse according to a proper data protection law. This is just not possible. Judicial remedy is transformed into the obstruction of justice. To Mr Voss and the other Members who intend voting in favour of this agreement I would say: if our own EU Treaties mean anything to us, then we must reject this agreement. It is all a question of responsibility, Mr Voss, namely responsibility to the citizens of the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Auke Zijlstra (NI). - (NL) Mr President, the primary responsibility of a government is the safety of its citizens and, accordingly, each Member State of the EU has a responsibility to protect its citizens against terrorism. No country should ever allow itself to be hampered in that respect because of interference from Brussels. After all, our citizens are right to expect security. Countries should therefore make their own decisions as to who may enter their territory and under what conditions. This, obviously, also applies to countries outside Europe. The United States knows very well how to conduct the fight against terrorism, so what is it that Brussels is actually interfering with?

If a country requires, for security reasons, personal data from anyone who wants to enter its territory, then that is not only its right, but also its duty. If a citizen does not want to hand over his or her personal data, he or she will then not be able to enter. That is a personal decision and Brussels has nothing to do with it. Mr President, let me be clear, personal data are purely and simply the property of the individual, not of companies and certainly not of Brussels. It is, therefore, absolutely not up to Brussels to negotiate disclosure or non-disclosure of personal data of EU citizens to third parties.

Mr President, terrorism is a threat to us on a daily basis and we must take that seriously. However, this agreement does not even recognise that Islam is one of the greatest sources of inspiration for contemporary terrorism and that is a disgrace. Brussels is naive and the Member States are accepting the curtailment of the responsibility they have for their own citizens. And I hold that against them.

The speaker agreed to take a blue card question under Rule 149(8).

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Alexander Alvaro (ALDE), blue-card question.(DE) Mr President, could Mr Zijlstra oblige me by being more specific? What does he mean when he says that Islam is a major source of inspiration for terrorism?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Auke Zijlstra (NI), blue-card answer. (NL) Mr President, this is one example of the naivety that I just mentioned. We can conclude from the figures that 11 000 attacks were carried out last year in Islamic countries, so all of these acts of terrorism were inspired by Islam. Where do you think the attacks in Toulouse, in Madrid, in London and on the Twin Towers came from? How can I demonstrate that Islam is a source of terrorism? Simply look around and read the newspaper. And again: it is disgraceful that the only MEPs who seem to recognise this are sitting on this side of the Chamber. I heard Ms Ernst say just now that safety is an illusion. Given the attitude of this Parliament, that is indeed the case.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Manfred Weber (PPE),(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Bødskov, we should admit to each other that we are all struggling to uphold data protection for our European citizens. We should also listen seriously to what Mr Watson underlined in his short speech, namely that the fight against terrorism is a common cause and that the people who experienced the terror attack in Toulouse should also be remembered in this House. We need to weigh up both arguments.

The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) clearly recognises the United States of America as our partner in the global challenge that is the fight against terror. We see the US as a partner and wish to work with it. I believe that we should avoid getting involved in this role play where the US is the bad guy that wants our data, while we Europeans reap the benefits of the results of the analyses, which will, after all, also be available to the European authorities. We must all shoulder our responsibilities, which means that we Europeans must take action.

Every country has the sovereign right to decide how people enter its territory and what information it requires. Just as we are in discussions on this issue with Canada and Australia, so we are now also in discussions with the US. This agreement will offer us greater legal certainty. Anyone voting against the agreement is voting for less legal certainty. These are the alternatives on offer today.

I would like to thank the Commissioner for making it clear that Europe is stronger when it acts collectively and that the European Union can achieve more than 27 countries negotiating separately. The PPE Group supports partnership with the US, which is why I would like to take a look towards the future. The reason why we are discussing a framework agreement on data protection is because the interchange of data will become more important in the future. For this reason, I would also call on the US to stay at the negotiating table and to take the Europeans’ offer seriously, so that we can draw up global standards for data exchange and data protection. If we in Europe and the US manage to conclude a joint framework agreement, then there is a chance that we will be able to establish global standards. This would represent genuine added value for the citizens of Europe.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Rui Tavares (Verts/ALE), blue-card question. Mr President, Mr Weber, in a debate like this we are obliged to have a realistic discussion on behalf of the public and not incite fear in them; not incite panic.

You made a statement that seems very ambitious to me: ‘look at Toulouse’, you said, ‘look at Toulouse’. What I should like to ask you is how you can manage to link the attacks in Toulouse with the agreement we are voting on here. As you know, the terrorist’s trips from Toulouse to Pakistan and back were known about, so what would you have done, Mr Weber? Would you have prevented him from travelling? How would you have managed to prevent it? Is there some way to have prevented the Toulouse attacks using passenger name record data? They were used, in fact, and did not prevent the attacks. As such, I believe that you are obliged to rein yourself in and keep within the bounds of a technically realistic debate, without using terrible events like those in Toulouse to incite public fear.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Weber, Manfred (PPE), blue-card answer.(DE) Mr Tavares, any criminal investigator working in the fight against terrorism will tell you that it is never one item of information that solves a case, but rather the overall picture built up. It is a question of how terror funds itself. It is a question of who has had phone contact with a terrorist. That is why we need to discuss data retention. It is also a question of the movement profile of a terrorist or possible perpetrator. The overall picture is what counts. I never claimed that just one data record would provide a result. What I did say, however, is that we need to uphold the data protection interests of our citizens, while at the same time considering what authority and what data we need to give to criminal investigators to enable them to do their job, namely to foil future terror attacks. Careful consideration is needed here. Those who reject the agreement today must also respect the fact that some data will simply remain unavailable. I said nothing more.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jan Philipp Albrecht (Verts/ALE), blue-card question.(DE) Mr Weber, I respect your opinion. Nonetheless, when I hear you say that of course we should conclude such agreements with third countries, I wonder how you will react to requests from Saudi Arabia – and no doubt soon from China – which will perhaps similarly say that, after all, if the US can have this information, why should they not have it too? Why should their request not also be given legitimacy by the European Parliament? How would you respond if these countries also wanted other measures to be legitimated by the European Parliament? Do we, the European Parliament, now have to accept everything that third countries decide? Does compatibility with European law no longer matter?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Weber, Manfred (PPE), blue-card answer.(DE) Mr Albrecht, when I speak with criminal investigators, they tell me that we would have been unable to uncover a whole host of activities ahead of terrorist acts if it were not for our partnership with the US. This is what criminal investigators tell me. It is for this reason that I say that the United States of America is a partner of Europe in the joint war against terror. As I believe the United States to be a fair partner, I am happy to sit down with it to hammer out an agreement. This does not give carte blanche to all the countries of the world.

If you are implying that we would equate our partnership with the United States with a partnership with China, then I am afraid I must disagree with you. I regard the United States as a true partner. I believe that this agreement will strengthen the Commission’s capacity to monitor the US and what it does with these data and whether it plays by the rules in implementing what has been agreed between us. I want a strong Europe. I also accept the United States as a fair partner that wishes to join us in the joint fight against terror.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jörg Leichtfried (S&D), blue-card question.(DE) Mr Weber, I have known you for some time now and I know that you are a staunch supporter of the rule of law, and rightly so. Hence the reason for my surprise at what you and your group have had to say in this debate. In essence, you are saying that this agreement – which I regard as nonsensical – is good because if we did not have it, the US would do as it pleases anyway, regardless of the wishes of the European Union. However, if we only consent to this agreement because we fear that otherwise the US will do exactly what it likes, then what we have here is a case of blackmail. This cannot be allowed to happen. I would like to know how you intend to explain this to me and your constituents.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. − I just wanted to say to Ms Morvai that I have already accepted three blue-card questions and now we cannot accept any more questions, also because the debate has to move forward and later she will have a chance to put her question to some other speaker.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Weber, Manfred (PPE), blue-card answer.(DE) Unlawful? This question can be evaluated in political terms. You seem to disagree with me on this. If we take a look at the agreement, we have an organisation that has the right of initiative when it comes to negotiating an agreement and the resources to evaluate it, namely the Commission. The Commission’s legal services have stated that the agreement is in order. This is the legal situation. If others disagree, whether fellow Members of the House, Member States, or European governments, then they are completely at liberty to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union and to have it examined there. That is our legal system. I have absolutely no problem with that.

However, to imply that a person is contradicting the law, despite the fact that the Commission’s legal services’ indicate that it is in order, is taking things too far. If this agreement is rejected, I am inclined to ask myself how you intend to explain to our citizens that we will find ourselves in a legal vacuum in which the United States will negotiate directly with the airlines and possibly even with the individual Member States. How will you explain to citizens that there are no longer any ground rules in relation to this data exchange issue. That is the issue facing us right now.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, I have the honour of chairing the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, where this matter has been the subject of detailed, careful and lengthy debate. As a result of that intense debate, there was a democratic vote expressing the will of the committee, reflected as a majority decision: 31 votes in favour of the agreement and in favour, therefore, of giving Parliament’s consent to the conclusion of the agreement and 23 against, with one abstention.

I think that that vote reflects recognition of the work done in the course of the negotiation. First of all, with a view to limiting the purpose, insofar as the other party’s original desire (which, clearly, never leads to a perfect result) to include all offences punishable by more than one year of imprisonment, has been reduced to terrorist offences, serious transnational crime and offences punishable by more than three years of imprisonment.

There is also confirmation of the principle of retention, for a fixed period of time, reducing and limiting the data retention period to five years and requiring data to be anonymised from five years onwards, except for terrorist offences, where data is retained for a period of 15 years.

Lastly, a reasonable balance has been achieved with regard to the guarantees that are offered in terms of affirming the principle of data mining (known as the PUSH system) and the non-discriminatory nature of the means of redress offered to citizens affected by the data setting system.

From that point, what we have is affirmation of the principle that Parliament has the opportunity to take part in shaping the negotiating will of the EU and, accordingly, to play a relevant part when negotiating with other global players, which is undoubtedly the case with the US.

The alternative, clearly, is to abandon the 27 Member States to bilateral negotiations and I think that people appreciate that negotiation by the EU as a whole makes us stronger, while abandoning the negotiation to the 27 Member States would make us more vulnerable.

At the same time it is acknowledged that, in practical terms, this means that citizens would be subject to the agreement that is currently in force – the 2007 agreement – which does not improve the position of EU citizens. Quite the opposite: taking them back into the 2007 agreement would worsen their position, it would reduce their safeguards rather than improving them and, accordingly, there is reasonable recognition that the agreement represents an improvement as compared with the status quo.

It introduces a uniform right of judicial redress across the whole of the EU and produces a set of legal rules that airlines, which are responsible for transporting at least 42 million Europeans who wish to travel to the US, will have to comply with, with some shared rules on legal protection, in the terms set out in this agreement going forward.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Alexander Alvaro (ALDE),(DE) Mr President, inevitably, we in the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe find it difficult to reach a decision on issues like this. For us, this is a matter to be pondered and we follow a rational path, weighing up the arguments rather than being swayed by dogma. We are the only group in this House to follow such practice. We are aware that legal certainty, legal clarity and the question of the clarity of the wording are decisively important, in other words what is contained in this agreement and what the decisive points will be for us. There are deficiencies with regard to the question of further usage and retention periods, as well as with regard to the area of application, which is open to interpretation. The wording is not clearly defined.

As a group we are known for our attachment to freedom, specifically the freedom of the individual. Security is always the servant of freedom. It is never the other way round. Responsibility is an essential element in this context. It is our responsibility to protect and balance the interests of our citizens. In our view this agreement does not achieve that and I believe that our rejection makes it clear that we shall oppose this erosion of freedom and responsibility.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Judith Sargentini (Verts/ALE). - (NL) Mr President, the example of Toulouse was mentioned earlier today and I would also like to mention the example of the Nigerian who flew from Yemen via Amsterdam to Detroit. His father had phoned the US embassy to say: ‘My son is planning to do something bad’. The French authorities also had information about the terrorist in Toulouse. Our security services have information about individuals who are up to no good and they are not using it as they ought to. If our security services did everything they could with the information they have, that would, in my view, be the first step towards increasing our safety.

In contrast, what we are seeing emerge in the case of PNR is a form of token policy. In times of danger, people do strange things, people take irrational decisions and then there is no going back. Collecting data around the world for every passenger who is simply moving from one place to another is tokenism rather than forming part of an efficient fight against terrorism.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jacqueline Foster (ECR). - Mr President, this has been a most enlightening debate. I think we have lost the plot here in that there seems to be – certainly from the rapporteur’s side – a lack of thought about ten years ago, when more than 3 000 people lost their lives in the United States of America. As someone who was the transport spokesman for my delegation at that time, I pushed for the adoption of security measures across European airports in order to improve security following that terrible terrorist attack.

Certainly from my point of view, I have views about my human rights and I would find it a breach of my human rights if my government did not take sufficient steps to ensure my security when I travelled both within and outside the United Kingdom. Sometimes they have to take steps which I may not be too happy about, but it is all about balance. I have to tell the rapporteur that, at 37 000 feet, the terrorists do not really give a toss about what we like or what we do not like, or what questions we want to ask or what we do not want to ask. I spent more than twenty years in the airline industry, and I was aware of terrorists from the 1970s as a young person. Terrorists have no boundaries; they have no morals, and – most of the time – they have no justification for taking human life. They do not care. They want to make a statement.

So all that I would say on this, if I may, is: what is PNR? It is really quite basic information. There is not much in addition to PNR. It is quite clear to me, Mr President, that my colleagues in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs have negotiated strongly on this report in order to secure the interests of EU citizens and the protection of everyone, and I believe that the safeguards are in place.

Following 9/11, the use of PNR data has been a vital tool, not only in the USA but also in the UK in investigating the 7/7 bombings in London as well as in locating international criminals across the globe. I, along with my ECR colleagues, will urge this Parliament to support this agreement and to accept that a strong deal has been negotiated which will support all British and European citizens and assist them when they are travelling across the globe.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE), blue-card question. – Mr President, I would like to ask Ms Foster if she sticks by her slur on me, and – by extension – on all those colleagues who will oppose this agreement, in saying that I have not given sufficient thought to security. I would like to know whether she has actually read the Agreement and the objections against it. Can she please answer the question on how public health, immigration policies and customs controls have a bearing on aeroplanes at 37 000 feet above the ground?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jacqueline Foster (ECR), blue-card answer. – Mr President, I do not believe that I cast a slur on the rapporteur. Perhaps the rapporteur is suffering from what is called ‘tall poppy syndrome’ and believes she is now the world expert on terrorism. That is what I believe.

I attended a meeting in the United Kingdom which was arranged by Mr Kirkhope with officials from the Home Office. It is not as though all the colleagues on her committee were not prepared to give her as much information as possible and to assist in this report, but 10 years down the line, rapporteur, some of the comments that you have come out with this morning I just find totally naïve. You are living on a different planet sometimes. You think you have a monopoly on human rights. Of course you do not. Do you think the rest of the people in this Chamber do not believe that it is very important that our human rights and our information is not kept securely? Of course we do. We are not stupid. We do not need lecturing from people like you, but what we also know is that our governments and politicians have to make tough decisions sometimes and it is not always easy. I think this is the best deal we could have achieved. It was very seriously negotiated and the Commission, I believe, will follow through very well on this.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Krisztina Morvai (NI), blue-card question. – Mr President, with all due respect, may I ask if, under normal circumstances, you would agree that a government – whether our own or another – has absolutely no business knowing where we travel, with whom, how often we do so, how much we spend on airline tickets, or whether we have a stoma, for example, or any other health issues?

Of course the government might have a justified interest in collecting data about this if they can protect lives with this information, but how exactly can they protect us from terrorism by collecting this data and restricting our privacy?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jacqueline Foster (ECR), blue-card answer. – Mr President, I take Ms Morvai’s comments on board. Airlines traditionally and historically have collected information from all of us when we book a ticket; they have done so for decades. The information they gather now is little different to what they gathered before 9/11. Ms Morvai is quite right: how much information is too much information?

The problem is that terrorism does not stop at borders; it is international. So we as citizens are obliged sometimes to give, with a heavy heart, information that we perhaps do not particularly want to give. It is sometimes difficult for governments and politicians to say that it is actually in all of our interests to do so.

I do not think there is a one-line straightforward answer on that. It is a result of the cumulative effect of terrorist attacks that have gone on over decades.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jan Philipp Albrecht (Verts/ALE), blue-card question.(DE) I have another question for you, Ms Foster, because you were of the view that the passenger data, referred to as PNR data, involved ‘quite basic information, in other words very little information. Are you aware that, essentially, the ‘basic information’ is already automatically transferred along with the API information? All flight information relating to who is in which aircraft is automatically transferred on a worldwide basis. Did you know that PNR data even include information about what I bought at the airport using my boarding card, that my credit card information is also included, as well as a lot of information about my travel patterns, plus other data gained through subsequent analysis?

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jacqueline Foster (ECR), blue-card answer. – Mr President, I will be very brief. The answer is yes.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Mario Borghezio (EFD).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, before making my case I feel that I must tip my hat to Mr López Aguilar, the Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, for the very balanced way he conducted the debate and for his most dignified and sober words, which I do not think anyone has dared to refute with any sincerity or good reason.

This morning, rather than getting into a series of philosophical or jurisprudential debates, we ought to take a responsible look at our fellow citizens’ right to safety. In particular we need to be thinking about those people such as workers and young people who have been victims of terrorist attacks on trains, perhaps, carrying workers, young people, and so on. We need to think about the right to safety, which must prevail over our personal and political considerations and those of a Eurosceptic group which I do not think will be able to vote in favour, as Mr Batten said.

The Lega Nord Members of the House, meanwhile, will definitely vote in favour of this measure, not because we are not receptive to the serious and well-founded concerns over privacy, but because we think that right now there is a risk of widespread and possibly nuclear terrorism hanging over the world.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, the fact is that the PNR agreement definitely does not offer sufficient protection for the personal data of European citizens. This is particularly the case because these data can also be passed to third countries at the discretion of the US. The PNR agreement will still be classified in the US as an executive agreement, which means that it will not be presented to Congress for ratification. Accordingly, it is not actually legally binding on the US. If, for example, the movements of Europe’s top managers can be plotted in full over a long period of time, then it is naïve to suppose that the US foreign intelligence services would not use such economic intelligence because of an agreement with Europe that is not even legally binding. This would be a completely naïve assumption.

Overall, European passengers are not treated in the same way as US passengers and it must be remarked that the Commission could have and should have negotiated an improvement in the legal status of European citizens.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Simon Busuttil (PPE). - Mr President, the crux of the matter when casting our vote is this: we have to reply to the question, ‘does this agreement strike a fair balance between two equally important objectives that all of us hold dear?’ – that is to say, the protection of our citizens’ security and the protection of their privacy. It is in this context that we need to judge this agreement today before we are able to say yes or no to it.

My reply to this question is: yes, I think we have struck a fair balance with this agreement, even though I am the first to concede that it does not quite live up to our high expectations on data protection and does not constitute the major breakthrough that we wanted. There are three reasons why I think we should support this agreement, most of which have already been mentioned.

First of all, having this agreement is better than not having it at all, both for security reasons and for the privacy of our citizens. The agreement provides a better data protection framework than the existing agreement of 2007 and, possibly, a better one than the bilateral agreements that we would have had to live with if we did not have it. Also, without the agreement, data would continue to flow, but without any safeguards.

Secondly, we have to admit that the United States has the right to request all the data it wants from the people who want to travel there. So we are doing everything in our power to secure their privacy when they choose to do so. In practice, without this agreement, we could end up with obstacles to flight traffic, extremely long waiting times for flight passengers and weaker safeguards concerning data protection and privacy. Lastly, yes, there is no doubt that the processing of PNR data helps the security of our citizens.

It should not be taboo in this House to say that protecting the security of our citizens is equally important. So, yes, it is far from perfect, but on balance our citizens are better off with it.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Carmen Romero López (S&D), blue-card question. – Mr President, Mr Busuttil, do you realise that of the national parliaments only three countries have included Passenger Name Records (PNR) in their national legislation? Do you realise that two of these countries, the UK and France, have included it in their immigration laws? Do you realise that Denmark, the third country that has included it in its legislation, has included it only for cases of terrorism?

Do you realise that with this discussion we may be stealing such an important debate as this away from the national parliaments? Do you realise that the Commission’s legal report is not the only report on this subject and that, as has been stated here, not only legal experts have participated in drawing up the data protection supervisor’s report and the report of the Article 29 Working Party? The Article 29 Working Party’s report comprises the national data protection authorities of each of the countries who have taken the view that this agreement damages the fundamental rights of EU citizens.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Simon Busuttil (PPE), blue-card answer. Mr President, yes I do know this, and I also know that we consider PNR agreements and their effectiveness in the fight against terrorism to be so important that we even want to establish a PNR system within the European Union itself.

The major flaw in the argument of those who oppose this agreement by saying that it does not give sufficient protection of privacy is precisely that, without this agreement, there would be even weaker data protection safeguards for our citizens.

I would ask the opponents of this agreement to please register this important point.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Birgit Sippel (S&D).(DE) Mr President, a number of years ago, terrorist attacks were given as the reason for introducing measures such as the retention of data or PNR. Obviously, terrorism alone is no longer enough to justify this gathering of data to our citizens, however. That is why we are currently talking about serious and organised crime and debating human trafficking; however the fact is that despite the millions of data records already on file, there have only been a few isolated successes so far. Ms Malmström argues that data protection has been improved, referring in particular to the fact that some data will be retained for ‘only’ 10 years.

Data protection begins at an earlier stage, however, for example when a specific limitation of purpose is applied or when restricting the data that needs to be collected. What is it that the agreement that is to be voted on today allows? The retention of millions of data records relating mostly to completely innocent citizens, that will be checked and rechecked with different criteria for almost every conceivable purpose for the next 10 years. Other criminal activities are punishable with a custodial sentence of three years. The German Government has this to say on its website: Those travelling to the US should consider that some offences that do not even warrant a judicial process in Germany are punishable with custodial sentences of several years in the US. Penalties must apply across borders. According to the wording, it is sufficient for the suspect to intend to cross the border. This is something we all want to do when we travel to the US, as we already have the ticket for our return flight in our pockets. Furthermore, any court can demand this information.

Will we have better data protection? In view of the broad range of applications, the possibility of data being forwarded to other authorities and to third countries is more than questionable. It is also regrettable that there is at present no provision for the participation of data protection specialists in the planned evaluation. At this point I do not wish to go into the fact that, in the US, terrorist suspects frequently remain in prison for several years awaiting official charges. A number of these people are innocent. We need to combat terrorism. However, this formulation clearly goes too far. Every citizen comes under suspicion and is delivered up to the US legal system, instead of protecting our values and the rights of our people.

I have one final comment: Mr Albrecht asked whether those who vote in favour of the agreement should feel ashamed. No, no one should be ashamed about the way they vote today. Nonetheless, I am extremely concerned at the direction we would take by adopting this agreement and for this reason I am absolutely against it.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, SWIFT, ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) and PNR (Passenger Name Records) are acronyms that we often hear and which are a source of concern to Europeans who do not really know what lies behind them. What is the reality hidden behind these names? Excessively generalised surveillance of passengers, and an agreement which means that if I take an aeroplane, the United States will know about my dietary tastes, my behaviour at the airport, aspects of my health, and so on.

Without going over all the arguments that have been advanced this morning in a long but fascinating debate, I would like to remind you that, since 2007, we have been calling for guarantees, such as red lines, which would have allowed us to obtain an agreement from Parliament. Yet we do not have this at the moment, either in terms of reciprocity or in terms of proportionality, as our admirable colleague, Mr Watson, reminded us in relation to the position taken by the United States, and I would question the proposals of Mrs Foster, which claim that passenger name records do not involve all that much. If they do not involve all that much, then let us call for reciprocity from the United States.

In this Chamber, some people are saying that this is the best that we could achieve, that we will not get any more, that we must ask the judges.

It is unacceptable to abdicate our responsibilities in this way. It is up to us to create the conditions of balance, of European democracy, between the security of combating terrorism and the preservation of liberties. That is why I will vote against this agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, finally, since the start of this debate there have not been many fellow Members who believe that this agreement does not, in one way or another, undermine the fundamental rights of European citizens. To put it simply, some people are saying ‘It’s better than nothing. It would be worse if there was no agreement. In the end, it’s worth chipping away a little at our rights if we can see a corresponding benefit in terms of security.’ That is what we have been saying recently.

Yet we know perfectly well – we have not only been saying it, but we have also demonstrated it – that a policy of combating terrorism, in order to be effective, rather than just being moral or meeting international obligations, must respect the totality of human rights, international law and our obligations.

It is extremely hard to believe that this agreement could not be demolished by a court, if ever we in this Chamber were not able to shoulder our political responsibilities, because that is what this is actually about. Will we manage to stand beside the citizens of Europe – past evidence shows that they can only rely on the European Parliament in these areas – or will we allow ourselves to be overawed by threats? We have seen what happened in the past. With regard to the system implemented by the CIA, when there were secret prisons, illegal transfers and torture on our territory, who stood beside us in the Council and in the Commission to set up inquiries and find out who is responsible? No one.

We want to cooperate. We have no mechanism of accountability when the services operate outside the legal framework. This is a serious matter.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8)).

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jacqueline Foster (ECR), blue-card question. – Mr President, I would like to provide a brief response to the comments made. It was said that all citizens object to this; I would say that most citizens do not know anything about it.

What the citizens of the European Union want is to ensure that their governments take responsibility when they as citizens move around their countries – and they expect to be able to move around Europe and the world freely. They expect governments to take responsibility for their security; and governments have to take difficult decisions.

I knock on many doors when I am canvassing, as I am sure you do, and you may have done so in the run-up to the forthcoming French elections. I speak to citizens and nobody knows what PNR is and nobody is interested. They just expect politicians to keep them safe.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE), blue-card answer.(FR) Mr President, I said that, during our debate here in Parliament, no one denied the fact that we were in the process of seriously eroding the rights of citizens.

You say that the citizens are not properly informed. However, you have undermined your case, Mrs Foster. It is a serious problem if we take citizens’ personal details when they themselves are even less able to monitor them because they are not even informed.

To be frank, I think it is not sensible to go down a road – and we are going to say this to the European citizens – which would lead to them becoming involved in an American-style system for fighting terrorism, with military tribunals in the absence of procedural safeguards, endless cases of imprisonment and detention without charge. I truly believe that European citizens deserve to be informed of the fate that you want for them, Mrs Foster.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Martin Ehrenhauser (NI).(DE) Mr President, Parliament adopted two motions for resolutions by a majority in 2010. This House clearly formulated conditions in these two motions. The fact is that this agreement runs counter to these conditions.

Firstly, profiling is still not entirely excluded. Secondly, the pull method is still possible. Thirdly, the purpose of forwarding data has still not been adequately specified. It can also be stated on a general basis that the purpose of collecting and storing mass data has not been explained at all and that the European Commission has not come up with a single alternative. Overall, it is worth noting that this agreement has given rise to considerable concerns in relation to the judicial rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and in relation to the fundamental rights enshrined in the European Charter. For this reason, I naturally do not intend voting in favour of this agreement. I believe this House would be well advised also to reject this agreement in order to remain credible and to meet its own conditions.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Mario Mauro (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the weakness in this agreement that all my fellow Members have complained about – including those who will voting in favour – is rather understandable if you refer to the words of both Ms Malmström and the Council, who spoke quite clearly about new and important concessions included in the agreement.

That is precisely the point: we are talking about concessions, which means something quite different to the recognition of legal prerogatives. This is the real problem – more cultural than political, I would say – in current relations between the European institutions and the United States authorities. This is the problem that has allowed the US authorities to hold separate negotiations with each Member State rather than dealing with the institutions of the EU. No European foreign minister or prime minister has not been brought up to speed on this issue in recent months.

Regardless, and acknowledging the objective truth of this fact, I think we should vote in favour not only because of concerns over safety but also because of the progress made in this agreement. That is because, honestly, a united and incisive EU stance cannot be put together overnight; it is not possible to shift the responsibility for ensuring the rights of all European citizens to the EU in a single step.

That is something we are doing on a day-to-day basis and I think our fellow Member Mr López Aguilar showed this brilliantly by describing just how animated and in-depth the debate was in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. That is precisely why the Italian delegation of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) will vote firmly in favour of this agreement, in the hope of better times ahead.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Kinga Göncz (S&D).(HU) Mr President, the European Parliament has the right of consent in respect of the agreement on the use and transfer of Passenger Name Records. This was the case with the SWIFT agreement as well, where we voted no. We did so not only because of problems with its content, but also because we had not been supplied with sufficient information, and because the conditions formulated by the European Parliament had been disregarded during the negotiations. It is due in part to Parliament’s ‘no’ vote then that this time the negotiations were more transparent and there was dialogue between the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the European Commission.

Some of the expectations we had expressed at the beginning of the process have been incorporated into the draft agreement.

Nevertheless, the agreement is unsatisfactory on a number of points. Still, I believe that the European Parliament should approve this agreement. If we do not do so, the data will come into the possession of the United States in the same way as before, without any uniform guarantee to European citizens concerning the follow-up of their data or legal remedy. Things would be the same as before. Data protection would be regulated by bilateral agreements, in the conclusion of which individual Member States would have even less negotiating power than the European Commission has now. I do not consider this draft agreement to be a good one, but I am for its adoption because this is what provides the European Parliament with an opportunity to obtain, through common review and monitoring, information about the way the agreement is implemented and to demand its suspension and renegotiation if necessary. Passengers will be able to follow up on who is in possession of their data and what they are doing with them. It will give European airlines legal certainty.

I insistently call on the European Commission to keep a close eye on the implementation of the agreement, the use of passenger data and the management of sensitive information, and to report everything to Parliament. If the implementation of the agreement brings about any practical violation of the protection of European citizens’ data, it should suspend and renegotiate it.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ISABELLE DURANT
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Norica Nicolai (ALDE).(RO) Madam President, I hope that this Parliament prefers a diversity of opinions, and I firmly believe that we all accept that the risks of cross-border crime and terrorism are global risks, requiring global responses. In this situation, the only approach is to have a legal framework, which has been achieved by adopting this agreement which, from the perspective of Europe’s citizens, albeit imbalanced, as has been mentioned, provides a rule of law that guarantees respect for their rights.

However, we must unfortunately prioritise a number of fundamental rights. I agree with and respect personal data, but we also need to agree that European citizens are entitled to personal security as a fundamental part of the right to life. From this perspective, I believe that the improvements which have been made in this agreement, such as the fact that we can renegotiate and monitor the situation, and I have no reason not to trust the European Commission and US authorities on this, are arguments for voting in favour of this agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Rui Tavares (Verts/ALE).(PT) Madam President, let us be frank: what this agreement gives with one hand it takes away with the other. It says it anonymises our data once six months have passed, but it is still subsequently possible to recover them for 15 years, or for more than 15 years where necessary. It says we can have judicial redress, but we know US law does not permit us to go before a US court if our data has been violated. It then tells us this is only to be used in terrorism cases, unless the authorities consider it necessary to use it in any other situation. That is why even fellow Members who are going to vote for this agreement have told us it is very possible that this agreement will be killed off in court.

I believe that, if we vote for an agreement that does not ensure that the guarantees that are given are not withdrawn immediately thereafter, or that may not even survive in court, we are doing European democracy a disservice because the spectre of politicians’ lack of credibility is currently hanging over Europe. If the public were to start saying that we politicians have not defended their rights, on the basis that if we do not say anything they will not know – as Ms Foster said – what passenger name records are, meaning that we do not need to bother dealing with PNR because voters do not know what they are, and that we are content simply to leave them with no option other than to take their cases to court, that would mean that we are not doing our jobs properly and that we are helping to discredit politics in the European Union, and that is very serious.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Axel Voss (PPE), blue-card question.(DE) Mr Tavares, what alternative do you envisage if we do not have this agreement? We would have uncontrolled collection of data in the US and we would very probably have upheld the rights of our citizens to stand in long queues. That is why I fail to understand this argument stating that citizens will be worse off. They will experience difficulties when travelling to the US. This agreement only relates to those travelling to the US and the aim is to make matters easier for our citizens, rather than putting them at a disadvantage.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Rui Tavares (Verts/ALE), blue-card answer. – (PT) Madam President, thank you for your question, Mr Voss. The issue before us is whether we are going to legitimise something that contradicts our principles, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Data Protection Directive, or not. We cannot choose whether the United States will have access to data in their territory; on servers in their territory. However, we must not legalise this pillage. We must not legalise it because, if we do so, we will be asked in a few months or a few years whether we are prepared to do the same with China, with Saudi Arabia, with Russia, or with any other countries that ask and which also have terrorist attacks in their territory.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jacqueline Foster (ECR), blue-card question. – Madam President, I would just say to the last speaker: if you want to quote me, then quote me accurately. You know perfectly well that that was not what I said in terms of the citizens’ understanding of what PNR was. So if you want to use a cheap shot, let us use it outside the Chamber, shall we?

If that is the best you can do for a political argument, you should not be sitting where you are sitting.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Rui Tavares (Verts/ALE), blue-card answer. Madam President, I would be delighted to answer Mrs Foster.

I will quote you correctly. You said we are not here to hear lectures from your side. Well, let me tell you something, your citizens have elected you to hear lectures from our side just as I have to hear lectures from your side.

What I do not accept from you is that you tell us here that we have forgotten the deaths of 9/11. I do not say to you that you are advocating liberticide. I would never tell you that. Please do not offend this side of the House by telling us that we have forgotten the victims of terrorism – and I did quote you correctly.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Angelika Werthmann (NI).(DE) Madam President, we are all agreed that the EU and the US must protect the security of all citizens. The joint bilateral efforts to counter terrorism are not what is in dispute here. I think we all agree on that. Nonetheless I would like to make it very clear that data protection is regulated in the EU in Article 16 TFEU and Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and must be respected. Please consider that Article 13 and Article 21 of this EU-US PNR agreement clearly contradict one another and do not invest European citizens with any new rights. For this reason, I would call on the Commission to continue the negotiations in order to obtain an acceptable solution for our citizens. Ambassador Eacho once said: ‘freedom without security is fragile; security without freedom is repressive’. In other words, it is a matter of finding the right balance and this is something that can be achieved through efforts on all sides.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Frank Engel (PPE). - Madam President, after an hour and forty minutes of debate, I still have the impression that this agreement, unfortunately, does not have much to do with either security or protection of privacy but has much more to do with creating a European legal framework for the enforcement of US PNR practices.

There is no doubt that the United States can act as it wishes with respect to what it requires of somebody who enters its territory. It is up to those who want to enter its territory to decide whether or not they want to comply with that. There is also no doubt that the United States will go to any length to obtain what it seeks – and that is where our problems lie, because we are dealing with an executive agreement in this particular case.

Most unfortunately, the United States does not have a Treaty of Lisbon conferring upon the Senate or Congress the unconditional right to ratify international agreements that the United States enters into. This one is entered into by the President of the United States and cannot – and will not – either create or confer rights that do not already exist under current US law.

As sorry as I am – for myself and also for my group, without whom I have to vote today – I cannot give my consent to an agreement which does not change what currently happens because it cannot do so. With this agreement, nobody will stand in line any less long than they currently do. With this agreement, nobody will be treated any better at a border crossing point in the United States than they currently are; and, indeed, nobody will have any sort of better data protection than they currently have. In case of need, the United States will just have to say that the sort of redress sought by a European citizen is not allowed by current US law. I am sorry, but I cannot agree to this.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Dimitrios Droutsas (S&D).(EL) Madam President, to be frank, the agreement is not perfect and there is certainly some basis for the arguments and, more importantly, the reservations expressed today. However, the question is this: what is the alternative? What is the best possible way of protecting the rights and the security of European citizens under the present circumstances? I believe that the answer is that it is with this agreement, which we are being asked to endorse today, with all its drawbacks, of which we are all well aware.

However, I should like us to consider another point. The European Parliament is being asked to vote today on an international agreement and an international agreement should take account of other parameters, such as the future of cooperation between the European Union and the US and the role we want for Europe in international developments in the future. The European Parliament rightly wants a more substantial role in negotiations on international treaties brokered by the Union and, as the European Parliament, we should have that role in the future. However, we must demonstrate that we have responsibilities, as the European Parliament, and that we know how to assume those responsibilities.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (PPE).(ES) Madam President, here is my opinion on the matter.

As a response to the threats that the EU and the US must face, the Passenger Name Records (PNR) Agreement must be interpreted within the framework of the fight against transnational crime in all its dimensions. The strategy on the external dimension of Justice and Home Affairs, the EU strategy against terrorism and the Stockholm Programme all refer to the need to establish close cooperation with third countries through exchange of information. The data that are gathered under the PNR Agreement are used for purposes of preventing, detecting, suppressing and pursuing and for those purposes only.

This new agreement provides great improvements by comparison with the 2007 agreement. The PUSH method is recognised as the mode of transfer, there is greater protection for data gathered, the number of supervisory authorities is increased and there are advances in data evaluation, not to mention the right of citizens to request correction or deletion of their PNR data, with the possibility of administrative or judicial redress.

Moreover, the agreement respects the right to privacy in accordance with the principle of proportionality. Limitations may only be introduced where they are necessary and where they genuinely meet the general interest objectives recognised by the EU or protect the rights and freedoms of others.

In these circumstances, we have two options: vote in favour of the agreement, and benefit from the improvements that have been introduced, or vote against. In the latter case, we would create great legal uncertainty that could lead to the signing of bilateral agreements, and to penalties and obligations being placed on airlines.

We must commit and ensure a high level of effective protection of personal data, which means that any transfer of PNR data to the US must be done in a secure manner and in accordance with EU law and that passengers can exercise their rights in relation to the use of their data.

In light of this situation then, Madam President, I am in favour of this agreement to combat terrorism and transnational crime.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jörg Leichtfried (S&D), blue-card question. – (DE) Madam President, Mr Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, you referred to the EU strategy against terrorism. This is quite a ‘catch-all’ strategy. However this strategy is also a framework within which our basic civil liberties are constantly subjected to further restrictions, despite the fact that it is these freedoms that make life in the European Union worthwhile. We have the SWIFT and ACTA agreements and we have this PNR agreement, among others. Do you not sometimes worry that in the end this will all be too much and that the thing we find so precious about Europe, namely our ability to live in freedom, will be increasingly constrained? I certainly believe this to be the case.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (PPE), blue-card answer. (ES) Madam President, actually, I was referring to EU security strategy and the Stockholm Programme. You must not have been listening properly. The fact is, you use the language of Goethe and I use the language of Cervantes, and we have interpreters but, in spite of this, we cannot communicate with one another. Why? We cannot communicate because you speak of impressions and I speak of experiences. Based on my experiences, therefore, I am firmly in favour of the Passenger Name Records (PNR) in matters of security.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sylvie Guillaume (S&D).(FR) Madam President, I would first of all like to emphasise two considerations that I think it is important to reiterate at the outset. Firstly, we are not hostile to passenger name records (PNR) in general and, more broadly, the fight against terrorism remains one of our major concerns.

Having given this preamble, I would like to say that, while we can acknowledge that a compromise is the result of concessions on both sides and is therefore imperfect, it should nevertheless not be made at the expense of one party. Here, however, the dominant impression is that the European Commission has not done well enough. At this stage, the arguments that have been advanced are not currently convincing us all to vote for this agreement. Although progress has been made, it is far from enough, and it does not in any way address the concerns expressed in May and November 2010 by this Parliament: a lack of respect for the rule of necessity and the principle of proportionality, an insufficiently precise objective, an excessively long retention period, an excessively broad scope of application and limited legal recourse. In short, we have a very long list of reservations.

This is an unfortunate situation because this agreement should have provided the opportunity to ensure that high data protection standards prevail, as behoves the European Union. I am also having trouble grasping the logic of the statement that the Commission is proposing to us. We are now promised that Parliament will be regularly and fully informed. That is great. We are also told that, if Parliament identifies deficiencies in this agreement and calls for it to be suspended, the Commission is committed to giving the fullest consideration to such a request. That is also great. It seems to me paradoxical, however, to hammer it home for several months that the agreement is not negotiable and then to assure us that the Commission will be able to negotiate it.

This is a very uncertain bet. I will vote against this agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Carlos Coelho (PPE).(PT) Madam President, Mr Bødskov, Commissioner, I am in no doubt that concluding an EU-US agreement, rather than concluding bilateral agreements, on passenger name record data is the best solution to guarantee our citizens a consistent approach and a higher level of legal certainty and protection.

I acknowledge Commissioner Malmström’s efforts in these negotiations with the United States, but the final result is far from what, in my opinion, we could and should be adopting. I will therefore abstain, for the following reasons, in particular. Firstly, it does not offer European citizens greater protection. Some people maintain that rights relating to accessing, correcting and erasing data, or to the possibility of administrative and judicial redress have been improved. As Article 21 of the agreement lays down that these rights can only be conferred if they are already enshrined in US legislation, this agreement could only confer new rights if the US Congress were involved, which it is not. Secondly, it uses the ‘pull’ system. The agreement with Australia made clear provision for the ‘push’ system, unlike this agreement, which also permits ‘pull’ extraction. I completely agree that the United States, as a sovereign state, has the right to require information about persons wishing to enter its territory. However, I do not agree with the possibility of going into airlines’ databases to extract the data that it needs. It is one thing for us to sign up to an agreement committing us to supplying data, but quite another to allow third countries’ security forces the use of our computers and databases. Thirdly, the use of sensitive data. The 2004 agreement prohibits their use, while this agreement allows the processing thereof. Fourthly, data retention: while data anonymisation has improved, on the one hand, data is now held for an indefinite period, on the other.

Madam President, a final word of thanks for the work by the rapporteur, Ms in ’t Veld, and my group’s shadow rapporteur, Mr Voss.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  David-Maria Sassoli (S&D).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, you were quite right to say that this is not a perfect agreement, Ms Malmström. If we at the EU had done it ourselves we would have done it differently, but this is not a directive, it is an agreement between parties.

An agreement is always better than no agreement though, and this one does help us to move forward. It will also enable further improvements, because each year a European agreement – not secret agreements like those made with all Member States – will return to Parliament and be verified by this House. Therefore, we have to acknowledge a political fact: through this agreement, Europe is negotiating with the US and comes directly under US jurisdiction.

I would like to thank my group for allowing free voting and for allowing the delegation from the Italian Partito Democratico to vote in favour of the agreement.

 
  
 

‘Catch-the-eye’ procedure

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (PPE). - Madam President, during this very interesting debate this morning, I have not heard, coming out of the wave of criticism, a single alternative proposal that could be pursued. International agreements are all about compromises. That is the nature of an agreement. You dance with each other. What is the alternative being offered to the citizens of Europe? Not to travel to the United States? That is the only alternative being offered. That means depriving them of their freedom.

Let us have a minimum of realism in this debate. No, it is not an ideal agreement. Fine, but what else is there? The United States authorities can collect data in their country. It is their country that people are travelling to. Would we prefer them to have secret bilateral agreements with Member States? Would we want them to take away visa-free travel and suspend it? They could do that.

This agreement is a great improvement over that of 2007. It is a significant step forward in providing data protection to our citizens. My vote is for protection, safeguards and freedom and security for the citizens of Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Ana Gomes (S&D).(PT) Madam President, there are serious problems with the passenger name record agreement that the Commission has negotiated with the United States. We are concerned, above all, that European citizens do not have the right to a judicial review in the United States; that is, they do not have the same means of redress as US citizens. However, although this agreement is bad, it is a bit better than the 2007 agreement currently in force, and is far better than the bilateral agreements with the United States negotiated by European governments. In the case of my country, Portugal, the national parliament subserviently ratified one such agreement, against the serious warnings of the national data protection authority.

If the European Parliament does not give its assent to this text, the very worrying bilateral agreements will come into force. If the European Parliament gives its assent to this agreement, the European public will, despite everything, be more protected and Parliament will be able to monitor the implementation thereof, in accordance with the agreement with the European Commission. That is why I am going to vote for this agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). – (SK) Madam President, the commitment of the European Union and the Member States to streamline the fight against international terrorism and transnational organised crime must be translated into specific actions that are in strict compliance with fundamental human rights and freedoms. New challenges cannot become an excuse to use unfair means to interfere with the fundamental rights and freedoms of EU citizens. The provision of passenger name records is one such intervention and therefore requires a respect for principles on the one hand and necessity and proportionality on the other. The process of obtaining, collecting, processing and storing data must comply with precise, predefined rules. The entire process must be subject to independent supervision so the principles that are required do not remain mere recommendations. Many uncertainties remain, and I therefore fear that the current agreement does not define safeguards for EU citizens in a sufficiently clear manner.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Ioan Mircea Paşcu (S&D). - Madam President, today’s agreement is an expression of the new balance between an ever-inquisitive state and the ever-decreasing respect for the privacy of their citizens after 11 September 2001.

I am not going to dwell on technicalities; I will rather try to make three points. First, before being concerned with the transfer of PNRs, we should be concerned primarily with their content upon collection. I do not see the relevance of, for instance, my trade union membership when booking a flight. Second, the data does not become public through transfer but through collection here in Europe. Third, our American friends want the data mostly to compare it with their own data already collected through other means.

In view of the above, I am afraid that we do not have an alternative to approving the agreement, which I personally intend to do.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Petri Sarvamaa (PPE). - Madam President, I have been sitting here since 9 o’clock this morning and I am amazed: I have not heard the words ‘law enforcement’. I went to get a cup of coffee a few minutes ago. Maybe during those few minutes it was mentioned.

As Mr Kirkhope said in his excellent remarks, he is not an American. I am not an American either, but I have spent several years of my life living in the United States, and I am afraid that some elements in this discussion today reflect a grave misunderstanding of motives and intentions.

I would like to ask some of the speakers on the left side of the chamber whether, if someone comes to your house, you are interested in what they are going to do there. Are you not interested in what their intentions and motives are? I think this is absurd. I would be interested. I do not understand the whole question. I am going to vote for this; it is pretty clear.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Gesine Meissner (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner Malmström, I very much respect your efforts to improve the agreement. Nonetheless, I believe that the agreement in its current form is not good enough. I could, in essence, continue from where the previous speaker left off. Of course when someone comes into your home, you will want to know who they are and what they want. However, you do not necessarily want to store data about them for long periods, also allowing others to access this information.

Commissioner, you have stated, for example, that the data will be depersonalised after six months. That is correct. However, as you said yourself, this only occurs after six months. We need to take numerous concerns into account. It has also been stated that this data is gathered anyway. I do not see this as a reason to sign up to this agreement. There have been no complaints to date, according to Mr Voss. Likewise, I do not see this as a reason to sign up this agreement either. There is no need to rush. Negotiations with the US are not always a meeting of equals. I am aware of this from the EU-US air transport agreement. We agreed to this, despite its inequities, because it offered us economic benefits. In this case, however, I agree entirely with Ms Weber: it is better to have no law at all than a bad one.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Phil Prendergast (S&D). - Madam President, colleagues, I have serious concerns about the EU-US PNR agreement on the grounds of scope, purpose, methods and necessity. In my view, the necessity and effectiveness of wholesale automated transfers of US-bound PNR data for counter-terrorism purposes has not been demonstrated. However, we need to face the fact that the United States is a sovereign country entitled to demand the information it deems necessary for its security from those approaching its airspace.

I am convinced that, at this juncture, Home Affairs Commissioner Malmström has negotiated the strongest possible legal guarantees on behalf of the Union and our citizens. For all my reservations in this context, a rejection of this agreement would not prevent the flow of data to the US under bilateral agreements, which would offer our citizens little by way of guarantees of data protection. This has to be taken into account if we, as a Parliament, are to take a sensible and responsible stance.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). (SK) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, almost everything has already been said today, and I would be most upset if our discussion today were seen as a kind of expression of the pro- or anti-American feelings of the members of this House. The truth is that the Commissioner has taken many measures in order that the original proposals, which in the end we also rejected in, I think, May 2010, might find their way into the agreement. The truth remains, however, that if the United States wishes to maintain a good partnership with the European Union in the fight against international crime and combating terrorism, then it would be apposite for our positions to be more considered and balanced. Commissioner, I have no doubt that you have indeed done everything possible to obtain a good position for the citizens of the EU Member States; unfortunately, you have only managed to achieve what the United States has allowed you to achieve. It is for this very reason that this agreement remains considerably flawed, and I simply cannot vote in favour of it.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). - Madam President, I just wanted Commissioner Malmström to know not only how much the ALDE Group appreciates her work, but also that it has persuaded a significant part of the ALDE Group to vote in favour of the agreement.

In particular I find the declaration that she has offered very valuable. Her pledges to be really on the ball about the review and monitoring mechanisms in the agreement, particularly the scope and purpose limitation under Article 4, are of particular relevance. She is aware of Parliament’s concern – which I share – about Articles 4(2)(3)(3) and 4(2)(3)(4). She knows we will be on her tail.

I trust that she will be vigilant and will report back to us in the way that she has promised on the occasion of the first joint review and subsequent reviews. I appreciate what she has done, and she has persuaded me and others to vote in favour.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). – (SK) Madam President, in 2007 the EU concluded with the United States of America an agreement on the use of passenger name records to legitimise and formalise the handling of personal data of EU citizens by the United States Department of Homeland Security. In May 2010, we refused to give our consent to the application of this agreement, as it does not take into account European standards regulating the handling of our citizens’ personal data. The new text of the agreement, which we are debating today, strengthens a number of provisions dealing with the protection of personal data and strengthens guarantees regarding the lawful handling of data. Even in the new version of the agreement, however, several shortcomings remain, which is why we rejected the agreement in May 2010. The present text must therefore be seen as some attempt at a compromise. The question remains, however, as to whether we have the right and mandate to milk our people of their rights and civil liberties using such devious means. I do not believe, Commissioner, that we do.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Carlos Coelho (PPE).(FR) Madam President, this is on a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt the debates, but I have been informed that the English and German interpretations apparently made a serious error in relation to my speech. I said that I cannot approve this agreement and I explained the reasons for this. However, it seems that these two versions – I do not know if this is the case for other versions – said completely the opposite. For all my fellow Members, I want to stress that I will abstain, as I said during my speech.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – We have taken note of your point.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Krisztina Morvai (NI).(HU) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, how far will Europe go? Where will we draw the line in tolerating the that the United States is forcing Europe to give up its own human rights with reference to the threat of terrorism? It all began with the United States adopting measures in its own territory which had absolutely nothing to do with the prevention of terrorism. It is unacceptable to us that people are being held prisoner for ten years without charge. They are subjected to torture and cruel treatment with no right to protection or to any procedure, that is, to any fair procedure in the European sense. And yet we have allowed secret prisons to be constructed in Europe and this behaviour to go on there. What we are talking about today may not seem like a big deal at this point, but I do believe that we must draw the line somewhere.

 
  
 

(End of ‘catch-the-eye’ procedure)

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jörg Leichtfried (S&D).(DE) Madam President, I would never question your ability to chair the sitting. You do an excellent job. I merely have a suggestion for the future. I, too, asked to speak under the catch-the-eye procedure, and I was here from the start. I asked to speak right at the start, and I think it would be sensible to let those Members who follow the entire debate speak, rather than those who turn up at the end and then quickly ask to speak. That would be a fairer approach.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – I have taken note of that. I am sorry, it is always frustrating. I depend on the schedule; there are the votes at noon and there is another debate on human trafficking. Anyway, thank you for your speech. I will be sure to take it into consideration.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, I would like to thank everyone for this very good debate. I also appreciate the good cooperation I have had with the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, with the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs. Let me quickly answer a few questions.

Firstly, scope. The scope of this is to fight terrorism and serious cross-border crime, which carries a penalty of three years. Customs, migration and border controls are not additional purposes. The reference to vital interests applies to life-and-death matters and communicable diseases. This arose in only four cases during the review we did on the current agreement from 2007 to 2010. That is four cases, none of which involved European PNR data.

Secondly, court orders. In the US Constitution and some European constitutions, a court can ask for PNR data to be used to prove whether someone has been on a plane or not, for instance. This only happened once in our evaluation, so these cases are extremely rare and they are all logged.

Thirdly, ‘push’ and ‘pull’. In this agreement – in contrast to the current one – ‘push’ is the norm. This has been welcomed by the Association of European Airlines and the international organisation of airlines. A vast majority of carriers already use this method and will be able to comply with the requirement to have ‘push’ capacity within two years.

Fourthly, redress. It is spelled out in the agreement that anybody can appeal to the Court against a decision to refuse access because of his or her data under the Freedom of Information Act. The US Privacy Act does not give these rights to EU citizens, but the Traveler Redress Inquiry Programme is available for all decisions made by the US Government that may be subject to judicial review. It is also possible to claim compensation.

Finally, the content of the data. The data registered are the data you give when you book an airline ticket. You do not say if you are a member of a trade union. You do not say in that booking what you intend to buy at the airport. The data is registered. I do not know how well informed passengers are about this (as was mentioned in the debate with Mrs Foster and others), but we say in the agreement that the US must inform passengers about this. This is a major improvement. Profiling is prohibited by Article 7 and Article 9.

As has been said, the United States has the right to ask for data from an individual who intends to land on its territory, as does any country. They do it today, they have done it in the past, and they will do it in the future, as most of our Member States do. We are currently negotiating EU PNR, which I am looking forward to debating with you later. Why? Because our Member States think that this is a valuable and important tool to fight terrorism and – even more importantly – drug smuggling and people smuggling.

What we are here to do is to make sure that the transfer of data is used in a proportionate, limited way, with the strongest protection possible when it comes to fundamental rights and integrity. This is our collective duty. You asked the Commission to renegotiate the 2007 Agreement in force today. We all did that with strong support from Parliament, clear directions in your resolution and with the support of the Council as well.

It is not perfect. You did not get 100% of what you asked for. However, on all points it is a better agreement than the one we currently have. This is why we are asking for your agreement. We attach great importance to this agreement, as you all do. We will review it, and in the review, Mrs Sippel, there will be data protection experts present. I undertake – as I did earlier in my declaration – to be fully transparent and to report to you at all stages of these evaluations and reviews.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Morten Bødskov, President-in-Office of the Council.(DA) Madam President, I would like to thank you once again for the opportunity to participate in this debate here today. The topic that we have discussed here today is an important one, and the debate has once again demonstrated that this is an issue to which we all attach a great deal of importance. As has been evident from the debate today, this is not an easy issue, and many of the concerns that have been raised today have been discussed in detail. However, like Commissioner Malmström, I would like to say that it is the view of the Presidency that the agreement we have in front of us today is better than the one we currently have. That is essentially the important question that we need to answer. The agreement is and will be better than the one we have, and it will provide better opportunities to increase our efforts to prevent serious cross-border crime.

We completely understand that some of you still have reservations about the draft agreement. However, I hope that Commissioner Malmström and I have managed to make it very clear that we obviously take your reservations and questions very seriously. At the same time, you should know that many of the questions that have been raised today have also been discussed in the Council. By way of conclusion, however, I would like to say and to emphasise that this agreement does not mark the end of the transatlantic dialogue on the use of the PNR data.

The provisions of the agreement that relate to evaluations will ensure that we have the opportunity to make sure that the provisions of the agreement concerning purpose limitation are complied with in practice. I therefore think it is important for us to see this agreement as a positive step towards a new framework for the use of PNR data – a framework that provides room for improvement, but that also solves a pressing problem affecting both our citizens and our air carriers. As Commissioner Malmström mentioned, both Parliament and the Council will be involved and informed when the agreement is to be evaluated. That is something that I can, of course, fully and wholeheartedly support on behalf of the Council. Thank you once again for the opportunity to be here today for this important debate on a very important proposal.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sophia in 't Veld, rapporteur. Madam President, very quickly, first of all, I would like to clear up a misunderstanding. I have said this countless times: nobody in this House disputes the need to use data in the fight against terrorism and serious transnational crime, Mrs Foster – nobody. But we do dispute the use of these data for other purposes like communicable diseases, as the Commission said, and immigration and customs checks.

Secondly, I would like to put a question to the Commission. You have a certain interpretation of Article 4 that is not shared by everybody, but what is key here is this: is it shared by the United States authorities and how do we know?

Thirdly, I would like to address Mrs Corazza Bildt. Yes, politics is about compromises, but certain things are not negotiable, like fundamental rights and EU law. I do not understand how we are able to reach a good agreement or an acceptable agreement with our Australian friends and not with our American friends and allies. That escapes me completely.

I think the analysis by our EPP colleague, Mr Engel, was spot on. Without the agreement, we do not have weaker safeguards, because the safeguards that are there are provided by existing US legislation and will still be there, even if we vote down this agreement.

On push and pull, Commissioner, as Renate Weber right said, not all carriers will shift to ‘pull’, and you know and we know that this clause is not enforceable. Even if ‘push’ is in place, as it is today, ‘pull’ is still being used. This means that the Americans go into our computer systems and pull the data.

I have not heard you answer my question: why do you qualify as ‘exceptional’ tens of thousands of pulls – up to 82 000 – a day? How, frankly, do you qualify that as exceptional?

Finally, on monitoring. If the experience with the SWIFT Agreement and the monitoring of that is anything to go by, monitoring is a joke.

One last question. Colleagues, ask yourselves, look yourselves in the eye and ask yourselves: if other countries knock on our door and ask – and we know that they will, as Qatar and Japan have already done, and South Korea and Cuba will come, South Africa will come, China and Russia too – are we willing to give them our data for use in profiling on the same terms as we are doing for the United States now? That is a key question.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12.00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL), in writing.(PT) The majority of air passengers will not know what passenger name records (PNR) are: a register for identifying passengers. Moreover, they will not know how this register is currently used. PNR can include a variety of information, such as name, address, passport number, credit card number, or even information on, inter alia, travelling companions and travel routes. It is this list of personal data on any passenger that is currently sent by airlines to the US Department of Homeland Security, now and always, in the name of the so-called ‘war on terror’; the pretext for all manner of breaches and glaring violations of citizens’ rights, freedoms and guarantees. The European Commission is complicit in all this. As the rapporteur rightly points out, unbeknownst to passengers, the number of passenger records sent to the US authorities is reaching tens of thousands per day. That is what has been happening in recent years. These data could also be sent to third countries. The European Parliament will now give its backing to this veritable Big Brother, as it has been supported in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs – ironies of ironies – by the usual partners: the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. This decision is unacceptable. It justifies indignation, denouncement, mobilisation and struggle.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ágnes Hankiss (PPE), in writing.(HU) The fight against terrorism and organised crime can hardly be effective without the tracking and processing of banking and passenger traffic data. It is welcome that the agreements concluded between the EU and its allies on both the TFTP and the PNR address most of the human rights and data protection concerns raised by the European Parliament, incorporating guarantees for the prevention and subsequent remedy of any violations of rights into the agreements. I have called attention to the need for mutuality in the relations between the US and the EU on several occasions. What I mean by that is that the EU should not only be giving, but should as an equal partner also be receiving information vital to law enforcement from the US. It is debatable whether the EU needs a PNR of its own. An own PNR system would not only increase the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism but could facilitate true mutuality between the EU and its allies. It would be appropriate if the Commission finally clarified its ideas concerning the future of an EU PNR. An EU PNR that served as a single European framework for data processing and ensured equal access to information for Member States would be to the benefit of the EU, the Member States and the aviation sector at the same time. It is of course vital, and the agreement also gives reason for hope in this regard, to give particular priority to privacy and data protection guarantees when establishing a potential EU PNR system.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE), in writing. The EU-US PNR Agreement should be favoured because it is an effective tool for the fight against terrorism and serious transnational crime. The US authorities have provided several concrete examples where the PNR data system had been crucial in disrupting major terrorist plots. The cases of David Headley, Faisal Shahzad or Najibullah Zazi, arrested before they could accomplish planned terrorist crimes, are strong arguments in favour of the security benefits this agreement carries. The agreement also provides for judicial and extra-judicial means of redress for individuals who may feel that they or their data have been improperly handled. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, however, no complaints of abuse of personal data have been recorded so far under the PNR agreement currently in effect. The conclusion of this agreement is a good opportunity for the EU to advance negotiations with the USA for the application of the reciprocity principle on the elimination of visas for all EU Member States, including Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Poland, in the framework of the Visa Waiver Programme.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing. – (RO) We live in a globalised society where potential dangers are no longer confined to the borders of national states. The battle against terrorism has exposed some states to serious threats. This applies not only to a few European countries but also to the United States. The agreement with the US on exchanging passenger data enacts in law a current practice based on a provisional agreement made in 2007. Such data have been used for the last 60 years by customs authorities worldwide, and new technologies have helped facilitate their transfer. According to the draft agreement, information will be kept in a secure database, intended to be used principally for preventing and investigating cross-border crimes. It is important to point out that EU citizens enjoy the right to compensation if their personal data are used inappropriately. Signing this EU-US agreement, based on the model of other similar agreements (with Australia, for instance), is important with a view to strengthening cooperation, as this guarantees a continuation of the policy for waiving travel visas for citizens and the freedom of movement in a secure environment.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kārlis Šadurskis (PPE), in writing.(LV) By approving the EU-US agreement on the use and transfer of passenger name records (PNR) in the fight against terrorism and serious transnational crime, the European Parliament will allow greater legal certainty for both European passengers and air carriers to be achieved. The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) supports the entry into force of this agreement. This will be a considerable achievement, since the transfer of PNR to the United States has been a ‘hot potato’ in EU-US relations for years. Rejecting this agreement would mean that the United States could continue to insist bilaterally on the observation of lower standards with each of the EU Member States or even with air carriers. This would amount to a very unsuccessful outcome for Europe. As we know, Parliament rejected de facto the previous version of this agreement in May 2010, and asked the European Commission to reopen discussions on data protection with the US so as to reflect the concerns expressed in Parliament’s resolutions. Although the version of the document as it now stands contains significant improvements in relation to data protection and cooperation with the US security agencies – for example, the scope and data-retention periods are clearly defined – there were keen debates in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on this thorny issue. This was not without cause: the agreement is truly far from perfect. Nevertheless, we are better off with such an agreement than with no agreement at all. It is the received opinion that the EU-Australia agreement on access to passenger name records is a very good example, which we should try to emulate. Hopefully, the agreement between the EU and Canada, which will shortly also be on our agenda, will contain high data-protection standards.

 
Legal notice - Privacy policy