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MEPs told to vote or else as US data row deepens

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The European Parliament has been asked to vote to approve or reject the Passenger Name Record agreement with the US.

The Civil Liberties Committee is likely to postpone its vote until a new template has been created, to detail what information is exchanged. The Committee also wants to lay down how the information should be stored and used.

Instead of taking the matter to Parliament and risking a no vote and the end of any exchange the committee's rapporteur Sophie in 't Veld recommends a delay to the vote, which will allow the existing agreement to stay in place. She warned that a no vote would put an end to current data sharing.

She hopes to have a standard PNR file model ready by April for MEPs to vote on.

But a spokesman for the Commission said it was preparing a communication on what should be included in PNR files but said it was doubtful that institutions would managed to meet Veld's timetable. It could take until autumn to get a prototype file ready and approved by the European Parliament.

PNR files cover 19 data fields including passenger name, payment type and where the ticket was issued. The agreement has been in place since shortly after September 2001 and MEPs have complained about it before.

The debate has been restarted by the Lisbon Treaty which requires parliamentary approval for certain foreign policy commitments. The full statement is here. ®

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