A restructured agreement to give the U.S. air passenger data must involve the European Parliament, the body has said. To meet Washington’s security demands, the EU presently authorises the transfer of 34 types of data. The EU’s highest court in May ruled the European Commission lacked the mandate to agree to do this, and said a new deal must be struck by September 30. The parliament has recommended it be allowed to help. Dutch liberal MEP Sophia Helena’s report calling for citizens’ data safeguards said the fight against terrorism should not be waged without limits: “We are fully aware of the fact that this issue must be discussed in to a wider context, in particular after the information we had last night, when President Bush admitted the existence of the CIA secret prisons.”
American and European officials are to meet in Brussels this Friday to seek a new agreement. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini had this to say in a speech to the EU deputies: “I want to recall that in the event that there is no new agreement in place on October 1, air carriers flying from Europe to the United States risk legal complaints from citizens, based on diverging national legislation on the transfer of PNR (passenger name record) data to the United states.”
A new legal basis theoretically excludes the parliament – which is the EU’s only directly elected institution – from the decision process. The assembly has, however, expressed an interest in holding a joint session with the U.S. congress to debate the fight against terrorism and its consequences for civil liberties and human rights.