Belgium, BE – Today Access Now sent a letter to Internal Market Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska urging her to launch of an infringement procedure against Belgium because of the government’s plan to restrict the freedom of movement of persons within the European Union.
The Belgian Parliament is currently debating a proposal for new legislation “on the treatment of passenger data”, introduced by the Interior Minister Jan Jambon. The draft law foresees the creation of a Passenger Name Records (PNR) system for the collection and storage of travellers’ information, including your reservations details, the names of the people you might be travelling with, your final destination, your personal credit card information, and much more. The proposal will be presented to the full house of the Belgian Parliament for adoption in the coming weeks.
This legislative proposal has been portrayed as a response to the Brussels and Paris terrorist attacks without evidence to show that it will be effective in fighting terrorism and protecting citizens. A few months ago, the European Union adopted a PNR directive requiring the creation of national databases storing passenger information about everyone flying into or out of the European Union, also without evidence of efficacy.
“The indiscriminate and disproportionate storage of massive amounts of personal information that is contemplated by the proposal creates risks to travellers’ right to privacy and data protection,” said Estelle Massé, Senior Policy Analyst at Access Now. “Our rights and freedoms are being restricted for untested, disproportionate security measures, leaving us with neither.”
The Belgian proposal goes a step further than what is required by the EU, extending the establishment of a PNR system from air travel to travel by boat, bus, and train. This would constitute an obstacle to the internal market by restricting the fundamental freedom of movement of persons, since EU citizens and residents would only be able to travel outside Belgium if they have booked a reservation at least 24 hours in advance.
“The proposal is in blatant violation of EU law and must be stopped,” added Massé. “It is not too late for the Belgian Parliament to significantly modify the law. Otherwise, the EU Commission must take action against Belgium to preserve the fundamental rights and freedoms of EU citizens.”
For more information on the impact of PNR frameworks on fundamental rights, please see:
Senior Policy Analyst, Access Now