EU lawmakers back deal to track air passenger names to prevent repeat of Paris attacks

A French Gendarme standing guard as passengers prepare to board a plane at Montpellier airport in southern France, on Nov 20, 2015.
A French Gendarme standing guard as passengers prepare to board a plane at Montpellier airport in southern France, on Nov 20, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - EU lawmakers on Thursday (Dec 10) backed plans to track airline passenger names as part of efforts to prevent a repeat of the Paris attacks, some of whose perpetrators travelled freely across Europe before the carnage.

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee voted 38 for and 19 against to approve the deal negotiated with the 28 member states last week, a statement said.

It now goes to the full parliament early next year, with approval expected in the aftermath of the Nov 13 attacks on bars, restaurants, the French national stadium and a concert hall which left 130 people dead.

Investigations have shown that several of those involved had travelled across Europe in the months before.

The European Union began discussions on a Passenger Name Record (PNR) system in 2010 but misgivings about the use and security of personal data held up progress, with many MEPs doubly suspicious after revelations about mass US intelligence snooping.

"We cannot wait any longer to put this system in place," said Timothy Kirkhope, the British conservative MEP who is steering the legislation through parliament.

"The choice is not between an EU PNR system and no EU PNR system; it is between an EU PNR system and 28 national PNR systems that will have vastly differing, or absent, standards for protecting passenger data," Kirkhope said in the statement.

France led the calls for adopting the PNR system, which will cover all international and internal EU flights while providing safeguards on access to and use of the data collected.