Passenger Name Record acceleration vote fails in European Parliament, leaving EPP and ECR furious

EPA / LAURENT DUBRULE

Queue on the border police control at the airport charles de gaulle in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. The series of attacks in Paris pushed the debate on PNR vote acceleration process (archive).

With sharp press releases and bilateral comments, some of the European Parliament parties deal European Passenger Name Record (PNR) with embarrassment.


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Using harsh language, parties accuse each other for tooling European security crisis. ALDE accuses EPP and ECR of playing “dirty games on terrorism”, as they both urged for immediate adoption of PNR by yesterday’s European Parliament’s Plenary session, even if the act is planned to get voted on April’s session, in four weeks. On the other side, S&D refuses to vote on PNR alone, urging for a complete data protection plan. On the other side, EPP is accusing political forces of the left to block the process, pointing to an “alliance” of the Socialists and GUE/NGL with the extreme right and FN.

Françoise Grossetete, Vice President of the EPP Group, applied wide criticism to “conspicuous by their absence” FN MEPs and openly accusing S&D and European Greens as “irresponsible” for “still” delaying the adoption of the PNR. EPP wanted to speed up the process of the vote, but this didn’t happen, as 207 MEPs outvoted the fast-track proposal, while only 163 MEP supported the call.

“If EPP and ECR really wanted to speed up the process, why didn’t they follow our proposal for a PNR based on a regulation with immediate effect, rather than a directive taking two years to implement?” asked Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE Group Leader, wondering why not propose just one unified European database and go for the 28 separate national systems instead, as Member States don’t seem to agree on a mandatory exchange of data status. “EPP and ECR are playing dirty games. PNR is for them only a smokescreen, to show to the public that they are doing something in the fight against terrorism, while refusing to give the European Union real and effective instruments in the fight against terrorism”, concludes ALDE leader in press release. However, on Tuesday’s press briefing, Verhofstadt underlined that passing the Data Protection Package is Council’s authority: “The council will pass the Data Protection Package and we pass the PNR”, he stressed, asking for the Council “ to move as quick as possible”.

“Verhofstadt is playing a nasty game on terrorism”, says ECR, responding to ALDE group leader’s accusation that the EPP and ECR are “playing politics” with PNR. ECR’s parliament rapporteur Timothy Kirkhope MEP, said: “Guy Verhofstadt’s group has tried to scupper PNR from day one, using every procedural trick in the book. He is trying to delay its adoption now in the hope that it can be derailed yet again at the last minute”, asking for Verhofstadt to admit that he is against having an EU PNR system. In this case, Kirkhope said that he’d have some respect for him. “But to say in public that he wants a PNR system, and then to throw up every procedural obstacle possible, is dishonourable and dishonest”. Kirkhope added that he is feeling “disgusted by Verhofstadt’s pitiful political games”.

From his side, Gianni Pitella, S&D President, clarified that on PNR, “the S&D is clear, we will vote on PNR together with Package of Data Protection. We can’t vote on that until we have a complete framework”, stressed Pitella in order to justify yesterday’s vote. “The problem is not with the European Parliament, the PNR is in European Council’s hands at the moment”, he added. From the Parliamentary Committee point of view, Birgit Sippel, S&D Group Spokesperson for Justice and Home Affairs, added that the S&D Group has criticised right wing groups in the European Parliament for using terror attacks to try and score political points: “PNR can help in the fight against terrorism however it is deeply irresponsible to present it as a silver bullet”, Sippel said urging for better cooperation between national law enforcement agencies.

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