Did the U.S. 'blackmail' the EU over passenger data: No deal, no entry?

Did the U.S. 'blackmail' the EU over passenger data: No deal, no entry?

Summary: If the EU did not pass a controversial data sharing deal with the U.S. government, it may have meant non-visa holders may have been turned away from the land of the free.


In the past week, the European Parliament in Strasbourg passed a new passenger name records (PNR) agreement that would allow the U.S. government to "pull" data rather than have it selectively pushed, and ultimately have no restrictions imposed on them in how they use the data that airlines must share.

As previously noted, the agreement's rapporteur Sophie in 't Veld MEP, who was tasked with investigating the proposed deal, noted that it may have meant "the visa privileges for European travellers to the U.S. fell".

Describing the deal, she said the passing of the data sharing deal was a "severe blow to civil liberties".

But the U.S. government may have gone as far as threatened not to allow in Europeans without visa unless the deal was passed before it expired, TechDirt notes.

It adds that the U.S. conceded on at least one point in order to get the deal to go through the plenary session. European travellers are now able to see their records stored by the U.S. government and correct them should there be any errors. This falls in line with current EU data protection laws, and the upcoming Data Protection Regulation.

But no visa means no entry to the United States --- although, it's not clear whether ESTA visa holders would have been affected or not.

Could Europe have swiped back with a similar argument? U.S. citizens do not need a visa in most of Europe's 27 member states for up to 90 days, in some cases even longer.

The U.S. government is no stranger to threatening behaviour extra-territorially.

Take Spain as one good example. Wikileaks cables showed that a ISP-level website blocking law eventually passed the country's congress after the U.S. government pressured and even threatened the country's vulnerable economy.

If Spain didn't adopt 'Sinde law' --- its SOPA-like anti-piracy laws --- it would have retaliated with trade restrictions or even embargoes to the country. If the U.S. cut off Spain, it would have sent a very strong signal to the rest of the world leaving the country on the brink of bankruptcy.

Also, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding described at a meeting in Brussels earlier this year that amongst many, the U.S. government “fierce lobbied” in order to make changes and remove sections of the proposed data protection legislation.

The PNR agreement looked for a while to be rejected, despite the agreement close to expiry. Once in 't Veld issued her findings and recommended a rejection of the deal, the fallout of an all-out rejection could have caused serious headaches for trans-Atlantic travellers.

in 't Veld told ZDNet some months ago that it would "unlikely" reach a point where European travellers would be refused entry to the United States, noting that the courts would intervene first. MEPs rejected a proposal to refer the agreement to the European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe.

Considering a similar agreement had already been passed between the EU and Australia, it should in theory be no more difficult passing a similar agreement between the EU and the United States.

You'd think, at least.

Image credit: CBS Interactive/CNET. Article source: TechDirt.


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  • blackmail

    The USA wouldn't force it through if it was rejected by the EU as they are as much reliant on our tourists for trade as we are for their's. The EU should have stood their ground and called their bluff.
    • The US has a long history of this

      Especially in Europe, where generations of politicians (even the French) have been trained to jump when the US whistles. One of the not-so-secret hopes in the EU was that as a unified body, it would be able to "break the chain" but US bureaucrats and legislators saw it coming and made plans to keep control firmly in place. France and Denmark have sometimes offered token resistance, but even in there conservative leaders have found it politically and personally profitable to make deals with Uncle Sam behind closed doors.

      A study at Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service showed that the US essentially writes almost 70% of the world's international agreements and treaties. This in turn drives a large quantity of internal regulations, especially for smaller nations dependent on trade to survive. And in the end, the EU is made up of mostly small countries with the exception of Germany, France and the UK, two of which are firmly in Uncle Sam's pocket.
      terry flores
  • no problem as do not want to go there

    Not really a problem for me as I had enough of the USA in transiting through to New Zealand ,stuck in a cattle shed for 2 hours relief to get back on the plane.
  • kiljoy616

    Welcome to America the open to government country. Still I have to laugh at how easily a country turns over its citizens information without any limits. Come on that is funny in a perverted way.
  • Just don't go to USA

    This action is the last straw I hope many will like me resolve not to go to USA. The UK has already given up too much to American bullying. The USA can get a person deported to USA by saying they have criminal charges to be tried there without any production of evidence. However American criminals cannot be deported to UK for offences performed in UK unless the case is proved in USA.
  • Those that say "Just don't go to the USA" have missed the point.

    Passenger data will be "pulled" for internal flights as well, just like it is for Canadians flying between two points in Canada. In Europe, at least, the trains are fast!
  • Easier solution...

    EU could have simply blocked all US citizens from passing through any European port or permit overflying their territory any carrier having US citizen on board. Can you imaging them flying to middle east or south Asia via alternate routes?