EU ambassadors gave the green light on Friday to an interim agreement, pending formal approval by ministers next week.

 

Leena Luhtanen, Finland's justice minister, said: "This new agreement will provide a possibility of giving passenger data to the US authorities while guaranteeing sufficient data protection."

 

Under arrangements set after the attacks of September 11, 2001, European airlines transfer personal data on passengers, such as addresses and credit card details, in exchange for permission to land at US airports.

 

The EU's highest court struck out that agreement in May on a legal technicality.

 

Interim agreement

 

The new pact will apply until July next year and the two sides will negotiate a long-term agreement in the meantime, Luhtanen said.

 

It will see the same data being made available to US customs authorities, who can then pass it on under certain conditions if privacy requirements are respected.

 

Robert Gianfranceschi, spokesman at the US mission to the EU, said: "This does reflect our common desire to take the steps necessary to ensure the safety of passengers while respecting the legitimate privacy interests of the citizens."

 

Franco Frattini, the EU justice and security commissioner, said the deal would make it easier for US law enforcement agencies to obtain information without providing automatic electronic access.

 

The executive European Commission had said that there could be chaos if no deal were struck after the old agreement lapsed last Saturday, but transatlantic air traffic was not disrupted.

 

Frattini said US authorities had agreed to apply a standard of privacy protection comparable with that afforded by European rules.

 

EU negotiators were wary about appearing to yield too much to US demands, given widespread European public misgivings over the US's so-called war on terrorism.

 

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday that EU states oblige US diplomats to apply for visas in retaliation for Washington's refusal to waive visa requirements for most new EU countries.

Source: Reuters