On 2nd December 2015, the Council and the European Parliament (EP) achieved an agreement in trialogue on a compromise text on the EU PNR. On 4th December 2015, the Council approved the compromise text. Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, praised it as a “balanced and proportionate agreement,” and Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister for Internal Security, said that “we are coming close to our common goal of equipping the EU with an effective PNR system that respects fundamental rights and freedoms.” Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK), Rapporteur of the Directive, welcomed the news. While calling for a positive vote in the LIBE Committee, he reminded MEPs that the choice was not “between an EU PNR system and no EU PNR system; it is between an EU PNR system and 28 national PNR systems that will have vastly different, or absent, standards for protecting passengers’ data.”
Only six days after the approval of the compromise text by the Council, on 10th December 2015, the vote on the text took place in the LIBE Committee. The Committee endorsed it with 38 votes in favour, 19 against and 2 abstentions. While socialists and some liberals – excluding Sophie IN ‘T VELD (ALDE, Netherlands) – voted in favour of the compromise, the Greens/EFA, and GUE/NGL groups again voted against it. Mr Kirkhope was surprised by the results of the vote: “The amount of the support was very, very welcome, we got two-thirds of the votes! Looking ’round the room I was favourably impressed that I got support from some Socialists & Democrats and some Liberals,” he said. “I didn’t expect or get any votes from GUE or the Greens.”
While the EPP complimented itself on its “key role in securing the required majority,” the S&D declared the PNR was just “one of an important set of tools to fight against organised crime and terrorism.” The group also welcomed the fact that the EU PNR Agreement should now be voted in Plenary at the same time as the Data Protection Package.
As for the Greens/EFA, Ian Philipp ALBRECHT (Germany) explained the vote against the Directive saying that “the concerns expressed by the EP in 2013 in opposing this mass surveillance system remain exactly the same today.”
Ms In ‘t Veld, instead, declared that “National security and law enforcement authorities will be able to retain passenger data in an near unlimited manner, but mandatory sharing of the analysis of this data has been rejected by Member States. We could have agreed to a well-balanced proposal of purposeful data retention, sufficient protection of civilians’ rights and mandatory sharing of intelligence. The current proposal only gives a false sense of security.”
As a reminder, next steps now foresee a vote in Plenary, which should take place in early 2016, and the formal approval by the EU Council of Ministers, to be expected in early spring 2016. Member States will then have two years – until 2018 – to transpose the Directive into national legislation. While the UK and Ireland decided to opt in to the EU PNR Directive, Denmark is not concerned by it, as it has a general exemption from