The European Parliament forced a renegotiation of the PNR agreement with the US, which establishes a good balance between privacy rights and the fight against terrorism.
In 2010, the EU successfully renegotiated the conditions under which data on financial transactions performed through SWIFT are transmitted to US authorities for anti-terrorism purposes, in order to better safeguard the privacy and judicial rights of European citizens. In 2011, using its new powers under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament forced a second renegotiation on the transfer to the US of passenger data through the “Passenger Name Record” (PNR) by European airlines. The new US–EU agreement, finally reached in November, was accepted by the European Council in December and will be examined for ratification by the European Parliament in 2012.
Securing American agreement to renegotiate the previous 2007 PNR agreement – which the US strongly preferred – was an important achievement for Europe. Although the new agreement is not perfect, it greatly reinforces privacy and legal safeguards. It provides better legal certainty for airlines, solidifies the right of redress for all passengers, places limits on the duration of data retention and on the purposes it can be used for (terrorism and serious crimes only) as well as the way it can be used (to avoid racial profiling or unlawful searches, for example). In a domain where Europeans still rely mostly on national law enforcement systems, this agreement also provides for the transfer of relevant information found by US agencies in PNR data to their European counterparts for terrorism and crime-fighting investigations. The same is true for SWIFT data, according to a largely positive implementation report by the European Commission in February 2011. Whereas new privacy concerns keep arising, for example on cloud computing, negotiations for a US–EU umbrella agreement called the Data Protection and Privacy Agreement (DPPA) started in March 2011.
On other issues related to terrorism, Europeans are still asking in vain for the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention centre. Because they are generally divided at the UN when it comes to labelling terrorist organisations, they are unable to act as a counterweight to ever-expanding US policies in this domain.