Today, European PNR rules become applicable - a tool for a safer EU

25.05.2018

Terrorism and crime do not respect borders. The PNR Directive provides EU governments with an important tool for enhancing security and protection of their citizens, whilst including robust safeguards to ensure full compliance with the right to data protection. The assessment and cross-border exchange of PNR data enables the detection of suspicious travel patterns which national law enforcement authorities can then follow up.

In the Member States where PNR data processing is already functional it has proven to be a valuable tool to support law enforcement authorities in the fight against terrorism and serious crime.

Implementation of PNR has been an ambitious effort involving all stakeholders, including Member States, the European Commission and air carriers. The constant peer-to-peer support has contributed to addressing the unequal starting point in the implementation process between those member states who already had national PNR systems in place and those starting from scratch. It has also allowed for the development of coordinated responses to key operational, technical and legislative challenges.

Over the last few months, substantial progress has been achieved by the Member States towards adopting their national transposition measures, setting up their passenger information units (PIUs), developing their ability to collect and process PNR data and establishing connectivity with air carriers. This collective endeavour has been possible thanks to the mutual trust between Member States and the EU institutions and structures involved in the process, which has drawn up the pathway for the practical implementation of the measures laid down in the EU PNR Directive.

The PNR Directive obliges air carriers to provide Member States' authorities with PNR data for international flights entering or departing from the EU. Most Member States have indicated that they will also apply the rules to intra-EU flights, making use of an option provided for in the new rules.

We support the sustained effort on deployment of the PNR system to its full capacity throughout the Union.

BACKGROUND

PNR data is the personal information provided by passengers to carriers when booking a flight and when checking in on flights. When collected by air carriers, PNR data includes the name, travel dates, travel itinerary, ticket information, contact details, travel agent with 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 may be involved in criminal activities such as terrorism and various other serious and cross-border crimes. PNR processing brings significant added value compared to other law enforcement tools by enabling the identification of high-risk travellers previously unknown to law enforcement authorities.

The PNR Directive provides the option to use the collected data in a proactive, active and/or reactive manner. In conjunction with the existing systems it could prevent the entry into the EU of any individual involved in terrorism or terrorism-related activities or alert the competent authorities in a given MS to the arrival of potentially dangerous people. Another added value is the option to proceed with analyses on the basis of PNR data that provides a picture of the travel patterns of individuals involved in terrorism, terrorism-related activities or serious cross-border crimes, and to define new criteria for further analyses.

Exchange of PNR data is critical for the security of EU citizens. Completing the above-mentioned efforts, and the comprehensive response to the challenges we face today, requires strengthening the links between the internal and external dimensions of security and continuing our efforts to explore the possibilities for agreements on PNR data transmission with strategic partner third countries (like the USA and Canada), while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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