Two weeks after Europe’s highest court overturned a European Union agreement to share passenger data with US authorities, the European Commission has proposed a new law that does the same thing.
The Commission, the Union’s executive body, has agreed to propose a new law that uses different legal grounds to have the same effect: it will force European airlines to share personal information about their passengers flying to the US with customs and security officials there.
Normally it would be illegal under Europe-wide data protection laws for a company to share European citizens’ personal data with a country with weaker data protection laws, which the US has.
Airlines would be fined or denied landing slots by American aviation authorities if they fail to provide such information, which includes details such as name, address and credit card information. But at present they face prosecution in Europe for breaking data protection law if they do provide the US with the information.
The Commission and the 25 national governments have now passed a law allowing the handover of most of the information the US demanded.
However, the European Parliament objected on data protection and procedural grounds and appealed to the Court of Justice, Europe’s top court. The Court supported the Parliament’s appeal on procedural grounds and annulled the law but it didn’t uphold the appeal concerning the substance of the law.
The new procedure excludes the European Parliament from the decision-making process. It only requires approval by the 25 member state governments to become law. Sidelining the Parliament wasn’t the plan, said Johannes Laitenberger, the Commission’s top spokesman.
“The fact that this moves out of the co-decision procedure is not a result of any option of the Commission, it’s a consequence of the Court decision,” he said, adding that the Commission “remains committed to cooperating with the European Parliament.”
At the end of last month the Court gave the existing law until September 30 before it would cease to be legally binding. Laitenberger said that elements of the new law could be introduced immediately after the current law expires on a provisional basis, if the new law isn’t passed in time.
The Commission has promised to consult with the European Parliament in the drafting of the new law, but the Parliament will have no formal role to play in the decision-making.
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