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EU, US plan to reach passenger-data agreement by end of June

European Union and US authorities plan to reach an agreement on screening airline passengers by the end of June, when Germany ends its six-month EU presidency, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

Schaeuble and US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff met in Berlin on Friday to discuss renewal of an accord the two sides salvaged in October that spared trans-Atlantic carriers the threat of lawsuits by Europeans over privacy. „That's not a simple task, but it's been decided and we'll do whatever needs to be done,” Schaeuble told reporters on Friday at a joint news conference with Chertoff. He said the US didn't want to expand the amount of information obtained from passengers entering the country from Europe.

The US wants to „analyze the data more rapidly and make it available to more inspectors without having a lot of bureaucratic hurdles that make it difficult as a practical matter,” he said. US and EU negotiators on October 6 revived the 2004 accord enabling European airlines to hand over information about US-bound passengers without violating EU privacy rules. European lawmakers criticized the EU for bowing to US demands to let more American authorities see the data such as passenger names, addresses and seat numbers. The agreement expires in July.

European airlines continue to transfer to US authorities as many as 34 pieces of information about passengers. The information includes ticket-payment methods, contact telephone numbers, reservation dates and frequent-flyer mileage. Chertoff defended the data-gathering as essential to fighting terrorism and said it had been crucial in exposing a child-smuggling scheme in the US While Europeans and Americans had differences of opinion „based on historical traditions,” Chertoff said the two sides had much in common. „In Europe there's this idea that we take data protection more seriously than the Americans do, which is nonsense,” Schaeuble said. (Bloomberg)