EU pushes for anti-terror rules on collecting passenger data

EU states led by France pushed for the sharing of air passenger information in a bid to trace potential extremists and prevent a repeat of the Paris attacks

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EU states led by France pushed Friday for the urgent sharing of air passenger name information in a bid to trace potential extremists and prevent a repeat of the Paris attacks.

The European Parliament is showing increasing support for the US-backed data sharing system after years of blocking it over reservations about personal privacy.

“It’s very important that we have the Passenger Name Records (PNR),” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters as he joined colleagues for talks on security.

“Terrorists use intra-European flights and we have to trace their movements in order to be able to prevent terrorist risks,” he added.

The European Parliament has the final say on whether to adopt the system and face pressure from member states that want a deal by the end of the year following the massacre in Paris.

Differences remain over whether the data should be used on flights within the 28-country bloc and over how long officials can store information that has not been “masked” to hide the passenger’s identity.

France wants to keep unmasked data for at least a year, while parliament, in its latest official position, has refused to go beyond six months.

“I’m going to work to convince my European colleagues who still have to be convinced of the need to implement what parliament recommends and which would allow a high level of protection,” Cazeneuve said.

The United States has for years been pushing the European Union to adopt a PNR system to tighten security, and President Barack Obama once again called on the EU to implement it in the wake of the November 13 attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris.

The two agreed on the exchange of data in 2010 which the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said offered full data protection but many MEPs were suspicious and repeatedly held up approval.

Revelations of U.S. intelligence snooping made by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden boosted such doubts but recent attacks by Islamist extremists in Europe have changed the tone.

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