Last week the European Parliament, following a hearing earlier in the month in Brussels at which we testified, held a three-hour plenary debate in Strasbourg on proposals to approve access by the US Department of Homeland Security to European interbank transfer (SWIFT) and airline reservation (Passenger Name Record, PNR) data.
The current “provisional” agreement to authorize blanket access by the DHS to PNRs for trans-Atlantic flights was executed by the Council of the EU over the objections of Parliament, but the changes in the structure of the EU brought about by the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in December 2009, now give the EP veto power over its continuation in force, or over any new agreement.
The transcript of the plenary session is posted only in the language in which speeches were delivered. But if the Europarl website recognizes your browser and media player, you can click the link under the thumbnail portrait of each speaker for an archived video clip with the the full choice of 23 languages — the most elaborate simultaneous translation operation in any chamber in the world — that were provided to those in attendance in the Hémicyle during the session.
The precautionary closure of most European airspace in response to the volcanic ash cloud kept some MEPs from reaching Strasbourg. As a result, voting on this and all other issues was postponed until next week, May 5-6, in Brussels.
But despite the deferral of voting, the debate was an important manifestation of the climate of opinion among the 736 directly-elected representatives of more than 500 million European citizens.
Several things were noteworthy in the plenary discussion: Read More