Print version

The Challenges in Creating a Transatlantic Area of Freedom, Security and Justice

15/03/2012, Rome

Andrew Byrne, IAI Visiting Fellow within the framework of the EXACT project, presented his paper on “Building the Transatlantic Area of Freedom, Security and Justice. The Case of the Passenger Name Record Agreements” in a seminar held at the IAI on March 15th. After an introduction by Michele Comelli, Senior Fellow at the IAI, Byrne analysed the latest efforts to reach an EU-US agreement on Passenger Name Records (PNR), which regulates the exchange and sharing of data concerning passengers flying to, from and across the United States, an important tool in trying to combat terrorism after the September 2001 attacks.

After outlining the most important steps in the development of the PNR agreement, Byrne focused on the issues that have plagued attempts to agree on a legal basis for sharing the personal details of airline passengers with the US. The request for European airline companies and travel agencies to hand over to US authorities a number of personal details of airline passengers travelling to or arriving from the US as part of an counter-terrorist strategy has raised much controversy as it involves the difficult and delicate balance between privacy and security. But recent developments mean that opposition in the European Parliament could see this form of counter-terrorism cooperation rejected. To what extent can the right to privacy be sacrificed in the name of greater national and global security, moreover asymmetrically valued by the EU and the US?

Greater attention to the sphere of personal freedom, however, is just one of the many challenges that the PNR agreement raises as a part of transatlantic security cooperation. Recommendations include greater oversight of the use of PNR and improved redress processes for injured parties which would increase legitimacy, build popular support for such cooperation and make it possible to audit effectiveness, without undermining national security prerogatives.

Finally, aviation security is but one aspect of what should become a wider Transatlantic Freedom, Security and Justice area. Constant technological development and vigilance are needed to ward off threats in the sky. Indeed, terrorists are increasingly seeking to strike in areas where they have an asymmetric advantage: the new frontiers in homeland security lie beyond aviation and the EU has an important contribution to make in building resilience to shared threats.

Related content