First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos today issued a joint statement on the European Parliament's vote on the EU PNR Directive:
"The Commission warmly welcomes today's positive vote of the European Parliament on the EU PNR Directive. This is a strong expression of Europe's commitment to fight terrorism and organised crime together through enhanced cooperation and effective intelligence sharing. The atrocious terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November last year and Brussels on 22 March showed once more that Europe needs to scale up its common response to terrorism and take concrete actions to fight it. The EU PNR Directive will be an important contribution to our common response.
The EU PNR Directive will improve the safety and security of our citizens, while also including robust privacy and data protection safeguards ensuring full compliance with the right to data protection.
The processing of PNR data is an effective and much needed tool for Europe to prevent and fight terrorist activity and serious crime. The use of PNR data can sometimes be the only means for law enforcement authorities to identify previously unknown individuals who might be involved in criminal activity and pose a threat to our public safety, and to identify and trace criminal networks and travel patterns. PNR data can be used for prevention as well as investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences.
The creation of a system for the collection and processing of PNR data received from air carriers by each Member State and the exchange of information among Member States will ensure a better cooperation between national authorities, and reduce security gaps. The Directive effectively regulates the transmission of PNR data by air carriers to Member States including on intra-EU flights, and contains robust safeguards in terms of privacy, data protection and the respect of fundamental rights. PNR data may only be processed for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime.
The EU PNR Directive should now be adopted quickly by the Council, so that it can enter into force and be implemented by the Member States as soon as possible."
The Commission presented in 2011 a proposal for a Directive on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime. The proposal provided for the transmission, by air carriers, of PNR data for extra-EU flights to a dedicated unit in the EU State of arrival or departure and included detailed rules aimed at protecting privacy and personal data.
In December 2015, the European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on an amended text of the PNR proposal. The agreement maintains most of the principles included in the Commission proposal, whilst also bringing additional safeguards concerning the protection of privacy and personal data. In addition, the agreement foresees for the possibility that Member States include intra-EU flights in the scope of the Directive.
In recent years an increasing number of countries, both EU Member States and third countries, have started establishing systems for the collection and processing of PNR data for law enforcement purposes.
PNR data consists of booking information concerning aircraft passengers stored by air carriers in their reservation and departure control systems. Several types of information are collected, such as travel dates, travel itinerary, ticket information, contact details, the travel agent through which the flight was booked, means of payment used, seat number and baggage information.
By processing these data against predetermined criteria and relevant databases, national authorities can obtain valuable information concerning persons who might be involved in criminal activities such as terrorism, drugs trafficking, trafficking in human beings, child sexual exploitation and other serious crimes. PNR processing brings significant added value as compared to other law enforcement tools by allowing the identification of high risk travellers previously unknown to law enforcement authorities.
The adoption of the Directive still requires the approval of the Council.
After its entry into force, Member States will have a period of 2 years to adopt the legislative and technical measures needed to transpose it in their national systems.
The Commission will prepare rules establishing common protocols and data formats for the transmission of PNR data by the air carriers to Member States.