Ireland pushes for passenger data swap
Co-operation between Ireland and other EU states in the fight against international terrorism will be boosted significantly by the removal of a ban preventing the sharing of air travel information between member states.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is now pressing for the speedy exchange of data on airline passengers between EU countries.
At the moment, Ireland can share information from passenger records with non-EU countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia. But a similar agreement does not exist between EU member states.
The UK is supporting Ireland in its campaign to oblige air carriers to transfer data of passengers on international flights, in and out of the EU, to member states of arrival or departure.
A key vote on the proposal for change will be taken on Wednesday by a European Parliament committee. This will pave the way for tripartite negotiations, involving the Council of Europe, EU Commission and the EU Parliament to conclude a deal in the autumn.
However, Ms Fitzgerald is concerned that the changes should be implemented quickly after approval, rather than face a possible lengthy delay. The move could, technically, be kept in the pipeline for up to two years.
EU justice and interior ministers have already agreed on the urgent need to advance the proposal, against the background of increasing threats from foreign fighters involved in the conflict in Syria and Iraq.
A senior Justice official told the Irish Independent there was no evidence that Ireland was a transit hub for extremists to travel to or from conflict zones, compared with other countries with international flight connections. But the number of direct flights from here to many countries in the Middle East and north Africa has resulted in close contact between the garda intelligence sections and their international counterparts.