Monday, June 19, 2006

The European Parliament: a pyrrhic victory on passenger name records?

It looks as if the European Parliament's much touted victory in the case of the US-EU agreement on passenger name record (PNR) transmission (see the blog entry from 3 weeks ago here) may turn out to be a pyrrhic one. The reason is that the European Commission has today adopted two initiatives that will renew the agreement, but under a procedure that excludes the European Parliament from the decision making (namely Art. 38 of Title VI of the Treaty on European Union for the Euro-experts among my readers).

Much as data protection aficionados will not like this, it is not a sinister move by the Commission. Rather, as the European Court had declared the legislation invalid under internal market rules, a new way had to be found, and that is now in the "intergovernmental" part of the European Union — the part where governments agree among themselves without participation from the European Parliament.

However, the Court did not pronounce on the compatibility of the PNR agreement with European level data protection legislation. It may thus be that a new attempt will be made to bring the agreement before the Court, disputing its substance. Since the Commission wants to keep the content of the agreement with the US as it stands at the moment, privacy action group lawyers can already sit down and start writing their briefs…

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