Deal Up For Approval By Foreign Ministers Of 27 EU Member
With concerns about civil liberties being sacrificed in the name
of protection from terrorism at an all-time high, a tentative
political agreement was reached by the European Union and the
United States about what information is shared about transatlantic
travelers and how long it is kept.
The agreement was reached during a conference call between
Franco Frattini, EU justice and home affairs commissioner, Michael
Chertoff, US secretary for homeland security and Wolfgang
Schäuble, the interior minister of Germany, current holder of
the EU's rotating presidency.
EU diplomats said Wednesday the agreement is expected to
"sharply reduce" the amount of information on transatlantic
passengers that can be shared with the US. It is also expected to
lengthen the timeframe that information can be kept, according to
the International Herald Tribune.
"A political agreement in principle was reached," Friso Roscam
Abbing, a Frattini spokesman said.
Foreign ministers of the 27 EU member states must now approve
the deal. They are scheduled to meet Friday.
The current agreement, set after 9/11, allows the US to access
and record up to 34 categories of information such as names,
addresses, telephone and credit card numbers from all passengers on
all flights originating from EU nations.
Schäuble reportedly said in a
briefing to a European Parliament committee in Strasbourg on
Wednesday that number would be decreased to about 20 categories
under the new deal.
An EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the
Tribune the time the US government may retain gathered
information would change to 15 years up form the current 3.5
It is still unclear which categories were dropped and which were
Chertoff has argued strongly that access to such information is
critical to combating terrorism. "We have to insist that we can't
tie our hands in keeping dangerous people out of the United
States," he said in an interview last month with The New York
The European Commission has said it recognizes the need to share
such information, but it wants to make sure it remains highly
confidential and used for crime-fighting purposes only.