19/04/2012. The US Ambassador to the EU, William Kennard, today congratulated the European Parliament on its vote to support the new US/EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) agreement, saying “The European Parliament’s endorsement of the PNR agreement is a testament to the strong transatlantic relationship and our joint commitment to protecting our citizens.”
However voting in the European Parliament was by no means unanimous. It was a majority vote that went against advice from the ALDE rapporteur Sophie in ‘t Veld (D66, Netherlands) recommending that consent be withheld. Speaking today, ALDE group President Guy Verhofstadt said that, “Liberals and Democrats strongly believe that this new agreement does not meet the minimum criteria outlined by the Parliament in 2011 and that it is not in line with EU legislation on data privacy”.
He went on to note that though the European Commission believes this is the best agreement that could be achieved with the US Administration, the ALDE group does not consider that the agreement offers sufficient re-assurance on EU data privacy rules to justify suppporting it. “The main political parties in the Parliament have crossed a red line by supporting an agreement that compromised on our core principles, namely our EU citizens’ fundamental rights. This sets a dangerous precedent for future agreements with third countries”.
ALDE MEP Sophie in’t Veld said the agreement, “still falls short of the high standards of data privacy and legal protection that our citizens expect. In politics we make compromises but some things are not negotiable such as fundamental rights and respect for EU law. Apparently the European Parliament believes Transatlantic relations are more important than the fundamental rights of EU citizens.”
In 2004 the European Parliament went to court to seek the annulment of the EU-US PNR Agreement. It also refused to vote for consent to the 2007 interim version. The main objections against the 2004 and 2007 Agreements, such as the lack of strict limitations of the use of data, disproportionate retention periods and inadequate judicial redress have still not been satisfactorily resolved in this latest version (2012).
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