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EU Court Asked to Rule on EU-U.S. Data Agreement

The European Parliament is to ask the EU's highest court to judge on an EU-U.S. deal on the transfer of air passenger data.

Following a close vote - 276 in favour, 260 against and 13 abstentions - MEPs chose to seek the opinion of the European Court of Justice on whether the transfer of data goes against EU data protection law. After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. requested airlines to provide access to the Passenger Name Record (PNR), which contains information such as the passenger's name, address, phone number, credit cards and travelling companions, in order to combat terrorist threats. Airlines failing to provide passenger data to U.S. security agencies within 15 minutes of a flight’s departure already face the possibility of fines of 6,000 euro per passenger or potential loss of landing rights in the United States. The European parliament has criticized the Commission for choosing a form of agreement in which MEPs themselves have little say. "We are not against an agreement with the United States, but we want a proper agreement which provides adequate protection to the privacy of European citizens and ensures parliamentary scrutiny," Dutch Liberal MEP Johanna Boogerd-Quaak - who was responsible for drafting the Parliament’s report on this issue - told journalists. The U.S. "regrets" the decision taken by MEPs this morning. "We feel we have an excellent agreement", a U.S. official told EUobserver. (EUobserver.com)