EU anti-terror chief backs Spain’s calls for passenger data collection

EU counter-terror chief Gilles de Kerchove has called for the European parliament to secure an agreement with member states that would require airlines to share passenger data by the end of the year.

EU anti-terror chief backs Spain's calls for passenger data collection
Archive photo: Shutterstock

EU counter-terror chief Gilles de Kerchove called on Monday for the European parliament to secure an agreement with member states that would require airlines to share passenger data by the end of the year.

Calls for the so-called Passenger Name Record (PNR) system to be implemented in the European Union have risen in intensity since the deadly Paris attacks, despite reservations over the issue of protecting personal information.

Speaking in Barcelona alongside Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz, de Kerchove said the PNR was an “essential tool.”

“I hope that the European parliament will be able to reach an agreement before the end of the year on an efficient PNR,” he told reporters just weeks after the attacks in the French capital that left 130 dead.

The United States has for years been pushing the European Union to adopt a PNR system to tighten security, and President Barack Obama once again called on the 28-member bloc to implement it in the wake of the attacks.

The two agreed on the exchange of data in 2010 which the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said offered full data protection but many MEPs were suspicious and repeatedly held up approval.

Revelations of US intelligence snooping boosted such doubts but recent attacks by Islamist extremists in Europe have changed the tone.    

In July, the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Commission narrowly approved plans for a PNR, and the parliament started talks with member states in the view of getting a final accord by the end of this year.

Fernandez Diaz and his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve both called for the urgent creation of this system at an emergency meeting of EU interior and justice ministers earlier in the month.


Spain’s AENA, world’s biggest airport operator, flies into the red

Spain's AENA, the world's biggest airport operator by passenger numbers, said Wednesday it plunged into the red last year as the coronavirus pandemic decimated the travel sector worldwide.

Spain's AENA, world's biggest airport operator, flies into the red
Photo: AFP

The company posted a net loss of nearly €127 million ($154 million) in 2020, its first since 2012. Analysts polled by Factset had forecast a loss of €205 million.

It handled 76 million passengers at the 46 airports which it manages in Spain last year, compared to over 275 million in 2019, the company said in a statement.

In addition to the airports it manages in Spain, AENA has direct and indirect shares in another 23 airports, including London Luton.

The rest are mainly in Latin America.

“There are no signs of a recovery in the short term due to the new wave of virus infections which is spreading in Europe and the different restrictions” on travel that have been put in place, the statement added.

AENA — which is 51 percent owned by the Spanish government — recorded revenues of €2.2 billion last year, a 50.2 percent drop compared to 2019.

The pandemic has pulverised Spain's key tourism industry with international arrivals dropping to 19 million in 2020, down from nearly 84 million the previous year.

The 77.3 percent decrease snapped a seven-year trend of annual records and ended a decade-long run of yearly increases.