Tuesday, 4 May 2004

"No means no": Europarl again refuses to approve airline data transfers to the USA

The European Parliament, at its final meeting of the legislative session, voted today by 343 to 301, with 18 abstentions, not to take up an “urgency request” from the European Commission that the EP decide immediately whether to approve the “deal” proposed by the Commission for wholesale access and transfers of airline reservations (PNRs) to the USA government, without waiting for the advisory opinion by the European Court of Justice on the deal’s legality that Parliament voted last month to seek before making its decision.

Today’s vote, by an even wider margin, lets stand last month’s vote to refer the question to the Court of Justice, and leaves the access currently being given the USA to reservation data collected in the EU without a legal foundation and subject to enforcement action and sanctions by both the EC and EU national data protection authorities.

This vote was the first (and only) vote on a substantive measure cast by the Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) sworn in yesterday to represent the 10 states that joined the EU effective 1 May 2004 — today’s closing meeting was otherwise, as it had been scheduled to be, purely procedural and ceremonial.

The USA had apparently hoped that the MEP’s appointed (to serve until the first EP elections from their countries can be held) to represent the new EU member states would be more amenable to USA influence than MEP’s elected from “old Europe”. In the event, “new Europe” — many of whose members learned their lessons about fundamental freedoms from the struggle against Stalinist demands to sacrifice civil liberties in the name of national security and survival — joined the union with a strong endorsement of pan-European and global principles of human rights and respect for due process of law.

Green Netherlands MEP Kathalijne Buitenweg told the Associated Press the “urgency request” was, “…unacceptable. We cannot be asked to vote again and again until the council (of EU governments) and commission get the result they like.”

Liberal Netherlands MEP and rapporteur Johanna Boogerd-Quaak called the last-ditch attempt by the USA to avoid having its plans subjected to court scrutiny, “a procedural ploy”, according to EUpolitix.com . After the vote, she said:

This means that we have now voted five times to speak out against this agreement with the US. I hope the Council now understands that no means no.

According to Tony Bunyan, editor of Statewatch , “The Commission, the EU governments and the US Mission in Brussels were counting on the MEPs from the ten new Member States to reverse the two previous votes in the parliament - instead the majority against the ‘deal’ increased. This is good news for civil liberties and for democracy.”

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 4 May 2004, 07:28 ( 7:28 AM)
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