Aug 12 2011

Grassroots European opposition to US access to airline reservations

An almost-unprecedented campaign of pan-European grassroots lobbying and activism has emerged this summer in opposition to US access to PNR (Passenger Name Record) data from European airline reservations.

During the European Parliament’s summer recess, people from throughout the EU have been sending postcards from their holiday travels to the members of the European Parliament’s LIBE (civil liberties) Committee, urging MEPs to vote against the proposed EU-US agreement that would grant immunity from EU data protection law to both European and US companies that give the US Department of Homeland Security access to PNR data collected in Europe.

It’s a clever way of mobilizing grassroots action and popular pressure on a travel-related issue during the peak summer holiday travel period, when Parliament itself is on holiday along with most of the European travelers concerned about US access to airlines’ records of their travels.

Direct popular lobbying of MEPs is rare at any time of year. Each member of the US Congress receives hundreds or thousands of letters and dozens of constituent visitors in their offices each day, but a visit from a constituent is a once-a-month event, if that, for a typical MEP’s office in Brussels. ¬†Despite widespread dislike of many decisions taken by the EU institutions, and growing power of the EU relative to that of individual EU members, grassroots European campaigning remains almost entirely focused on national issues and national legislatures.

An equally-rare demonstration and other networking and activist events on this and related issues are being planned as part of Freedom Not Fear 2011 in Brussels on September 17-19, 2011.

We congratulate our European colleagues for taking the issue of US travel surveillance to the people and to the streets, and we urge our European supporters to join these campaigns.

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