It seems I may have made a mistake when I reported recently that the EU Commission and Council of ministers had managed to see off the EU Parliament's court challenge to the decision on transfer of airline passenger data to the US.
According to the latest EDR-gram the legal affairs committee of the EU parliament (JURI) yesterday renewed their decision to take the Commission and the Council of ministers to the European Court of Justice on the issue.
"EU Parliament renews decision to take Commission to court ============================================================
The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) decided today to take the European Commission as well as the Council to court over the final agreement to transfer PNR data to the US without adequate guarantees for data protection.
The committee, which met today (16 June 2004) for an extraordinary meeting during the Parliament's present recession, voted to call upon the Luxembourg Court to defer the Commission's so-called adequacy finding. This finding claims that the data will find the same level of protection in the U.S. as in the EU. The committee also voted to take the international agreement to court that was signed by the EU Council with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on 28 May 2004 (see EDRi-gram 2.11). Today's vote was taken with a two-thirds majority concerning the adequacy finding and 19 to 14 votes concerning the international agreement. This is an even clearer majority than in former votes on the same issue.
The JURI committee's decision must still be confirmed by the EU Parliament's Group leaders in a meeting this evening, but it is widely considered that this confirmation is only a formality after no less than six votes in the Parliament to stop the ongoing transfer.
There are however also indications that the Parliament's outgoing President, Pat Cox, has been trying to turn over the wide consensus against the transfer within the EU Parliament. Before the vote in the Committee, a member of the Parliament's judicial service, which is attached to the President's office and obliged to be politically neutral, tried to convince MEPs in a 25-minute speech that there was no legal basis for taking the other two EU institutions to court. Mr. Cox is one of the possible candidates for the presidency of the EU Commission and could thus become subject to an EU Court of Justice case himself. Outgoing Italian Radical MEP Marco Cappato criticised the Judicial Services' intervention as based 'more on political than on legal grounds' and therefore 'an abuse'.
EU-US air data row hots up (16.06.2004) http://www.eupolitix.com/EN/News/200406/8f1cbb0f-bc0c-4583-b514-4b029ed1f942.htm
PNR data deal signed by European Commission (02.06.2004) http://www.edri.org/cgi-bin/index?id=000100000151
(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU affairs director)"
Update: The FT have picked up the story.