Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Europarl committee votes to bring new challenge to USA access to airline reservation data

The President of the European Parliament was requested today to bring new legal actions before the European Court of Justice, to ask the Court to annul both the European Commission’s finding that airline passenger data is “adequately” protected by the USA Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the “Agreement” signed with the DHS on behalf of the European Union that, if ratified and if its other conditions are met (neither of which, it should be noted, has yet happened), would authorize the ongoing and currently still illegal access by the DHS to airline reservation data from the EU, as well as use of PNR data from the EU for CAPPS-II testing.

Unmoved by heavy-handed lobbying by supporters of the DHS and the EC, the outgoing “lame duck” members of the Europarl Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (JURI) voted today at a special session 21-10 in favor of Parliament bringing suit to annul the “agreement”, and 19-14 in favor of the suit to annul the adequacy finding.

The JURI Committee also agreed unanimously to withdraw their earlier request for an advisory opnion from the Court of Justice, which was rendered moot by the European Commission (EC)when the EC disregarded Parlimanet’s request, issued the adequacy finding, and signed the agreement over Parliament’s objections and without waiting for the Court’s opinion.

The Council of Presidents of political parties represented in the European Parliament was also scheduled to discuss these issues later today. According to a background note for the Council of Presidents meeting, as posted by Statewatch:

Pursuant to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, Parliament is represented by the President in legal matters (Rule 19(4)). Rule 91(3) - Proceedings before the Court of Justice - stipulates in greater detail that:

“3. The President shall bring an action on behalf of Parliament in accordance with the recommendation of the committee responsible.

At the start of the following part-session, he may put to plenary the decision on maintaining the action. Should plenary rule against the action by a majority of the votes cast, he shall withdraw it.

Should the President bring an action contrary to the recommendation of the committee responsible, he shall put to plenary, at the start of the following partsession, the decision on maintaining the action.”

So today’s vote obligates the [outgoing] President of the European Parliament, MEP Pat Cox of Ireland, either to ask the Court of Justice to annul both the agreement on PNR data transfers and the adequacy finding, or to put the question of whether to do so to the Europarl plenary when the newly-elected Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) first convene after 19 July 2004.

The newly-elected MEP’s are generally perceived as being more conservative than the outgoing membership, and some of the MEP’s who have been most outspoken on this issue were not re-elected (although not, so far as anyone as suggested, for reasons related to their positions on PNR data), including Italian Radical Party MEP Marco Cappato and Netherlands Liberal-Democratic MEP Johanna Boogerd-Quaak.

But the Europarl plenary has already voted five times against the agrement and adequacy finding, and has earlier requested an opinion from the Court of Justice on their legality. And many MEP’s are offended at the breach of protocol and the encroachment on their authority by the EC in ignoring Parliaments’s recommendations and failing to wait for the Court’s advisory opinion.

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 16 June 2004, 07:16 ( 7:16 AM)
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