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Justice and Home Affairs Council


Data sharing, protection are border security priorities


Justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga attended an EU Justice and Home Affairs council (JHA) meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, where ministers continued anti-terrorism security discussions that began in the wake of the Brussels bombings. 

Implementation of joint asylum measures were also on the agenda.

At the main council meeting, ministers spoke of possible options to ensure that all states use existing information systems more effectively at the European and international levels. A first discussion presented by the European Commission focused on “smart borders” – a project intended to reinforce security in the Schengen area, modernise border management, and intensify collaboration between migration authorities and groups charged with border control.

Sommaruga declared that Switzerland supports propositions to bring technical measures quickly into effect in the short term, while leaving the door open for future developments. She emphasised the critical importance of data protection.

A second agenda item was the implementation of measures decided upon by the JHA in March on the issue of asylum – particularly the EU-Turkey declaration. Sommaruga indicated that certain legal and practical aspects still have to be clarified. For Switzerland, the important thing is that the provisions of the convention relating to refugee status are respected.

Proposals to reform the Common European Asylum System – which notably concerns the Dublin system – are an ongoing concern for Switzerland. Sommaruga emphasised that in this system, member states must assume their own responsibilities. Official legislative proposals on the reforms are expected soon. For Sommaruga, these propositions must be simple and practicable, so that they can be implemented quickly.

Sommaruga also met with French and German interior ministers Bernard Cazeneuve and Thomas de Maizière to discuss possible changes to migratory routes, and she attended an informal meeting between member states particularly affected by terrorist threats.

Passenger data directive adopted

Also on Thursday in Luxembourg, EU member states followed the European Parliament in adopting the PNR directive (“Passenger Name Record”) which obliges airlines to transmit data on passengers to EU member states. Data, which can be kept for up to six months, may concern identity, address, phone number, date of travel and itinerary, method of payment, seat number, and food eaten. Data considered sensitive relating to ethnicity, religion, health status or sexual orientation will not be shared.

The goal is to allow police to use the data in the context of preventing attacks or other punishable acts. Member states have two years to implement these provisions in their legislation.

All airlines flying toward and from the EU fall under the new regulations. While Switzerland is not obliged to take up the directive, it is nevertheless affected by the decision, said the Federal Office of Police (FEDPOL). Swiss authorities are currently evaluating the technical, legal and financial implications of the decision.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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