EU PNR could be great tool in fight against major crime

The controversial PNR bill now strikes a perfect balance between security and privacy, says Timothy Kirkhope.

By William Louch

08 Dec 2015

Recently Brussels, the home of the EU institutions, became the second capital city in Europe to implement emergency security measures, following the terror attacks in Paris that left 130 dead. 

The Paris atrocities, along with those in Mali, Beirut and Egypt, confirmed a major shift in ISIS's strategy, demonstrating their capability and commitment to exporting their uniquely brutal brand of violence to a global audience.

This new, aggressive strategy, combined with trained European jihadis returning unchecked from conflict zones, provides the greatest threat to European security in a generation. Combating the growing threat is rightly at the forefront of the political agenda.


Something that is frequently mentioned when discussing security is the controversial passenger name record (PNR) directive. This measure would enable the more systematic collection, use and retention of data on international airline passengers.

The proposal, which dates back to 2011, was initially rejected by the European Parliament's civil liberties committee in April 2013, which raised concerns over its necessity, proportionality and the danger it poses to our fundamental rights. The Charlie Hebdo attacks in January this year thrust PNR back into the spotlight. 

Parliament committed in January to finalising an EU PNR directive by the end of 2015. Slow progress towards this goal has been made with negotiations between Council, Commission and Parliament currently underway.

However, given the new security context, there have been renewed calls to finalise the directive.  Bernard Cazeneuve and Theresa May, Security and Justice Ministers for France and the UK respectively, have reiterated these calls. May called for "immediate progress" on the PNR directive, saying "the negotiation has taken too long. They must be concluded."

Cazeneuve agreed, urging MEPs to waive their objections; "Not a single EU citizen will understand why the Parliament continues blocking this essential tool".

Tasked with steering PNR through this minefi eld of confl icting interests is Parliament's rapporteur for the report, ECR group MEP Timothy Kirkhope.

Kirkhope remains staunchly supportive of the legislation, telling the Parliament Magazine that; "The introduction of an EU PNR system will definitely enhance our capability to prevent major crime and terrorism."

Kirkhope acknowledged the need to strike a balance between security and privacy, something he feels the PNR report does. He said he believes that, "the issues of data protection and security must be looked at together and a balance struck; I believe my PNR does exactly that."

He highlighted the emphasis placed on striking a balance throughout the process, saying; "We have spent a considerable amount of time and trouble in finding the right balance between the needs for greater and more up to date security while protecting privacy in a constantly moving technological atmosphere."

He concluded; "Time will tell if my proposals really make a difference but I sincerely believe they will."


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