The directive on the use of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime (EU PNR directive) is back on the EU agenda. Citizens writing to the European Parliament expressed their concerns about the PNR’s potential impact on fundamental rights and data protection.
The Member States have been pushing for years for an EU scheme for the collection, use and retention of airline passengers’ data.
In light of the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, and of those in Paris and Copenhagen in early 2015, security issues have come back to the top of the political agenda. There are also concerns about the growing threat posed by Europeans returning home after fighting for the so-called ‘Islamic State’ which have given the previous rejected proposal a new boost.
On 19 November 2015, MEPs held a debate with Europol chief and Council and Commission representatives, focusing, inter alia, on the revision of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive’s proposal.
Evolution of the legislative proposal
Members of the Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) rejected the proposal for a PNR directive in 2013 because of concerns about the potential impact on fundamental rights and data protection.
In view of the several severe terrorist attacks on European soil, in particular the tragic events in Paris in January 2015, the European Parliament, in a joint resolution of 11 February 2015 on anti-terrorism measures, committed itself to work towards the finalisation of an EU PNR directive by the end of 2015.
At the same time, the Parliament encouraged the Council to make progress on the Data Protection package so that trilogues on both – EU PNR directive and Data Protection Package – could take place in parallel.
In its resolution of 9 July 2015 on the European Agenda on Security, the Parliament reiterated its commitment regarding the finalisation of the PNR directive, stressing that it should respect fundamental rights and data protection standards.
The LIBE committee adopted its second report on EU PNR on 7 September 2015, and the proposal of the directive was debated in the Council of 8 October 2015. More information is available on the outcome of this meeting.
Progress on the EU PNR directive can be followed in the PNR procedure file.
Usage of PNR data
PNR data is information provided by air passengers in the course of ticket reservation which is held by air carriers. Its primary use by air carriers is for operational purposes (it contains information in 19 fields such as travel dates, travel itinerary, ticket information, contact details, travel agency details, means of payment used, seat number and baggage information) but it also has commercial and statistical value for the airlines.
As indicated in the explanatory statement of the LIBE committee’s above-mentioned second report, PNR data can also be used by law enforcement bodies and the proposed directive lays down harmonised rules for such measures, as well as being an effective tool to identify and track criminal and terrorist activity.
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