Czechs became Trojan horses for new US visa waiver programme

26. 3. 2008 | 11:24

Czech Republic Interior Minister Ivan Langer and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff signed on 26 February 2008 in Washington D.C. the Memorandum of Understanding which is the first step in introducing new electronic visa programme for all EU countries. In this Memorandum Czech authorities agreed to "passenger and other information sharing, screening information concerning known or suspected terrorists, information to combat terrorism and serious crime, and information on migration matters" with the US authorities and also promised to "allow for the further dissemination of transferred information within the United States Government". Czech Ministry of Interior agreed "to provide identifying information that includes biographic and biometric data, to be used in determining whether persons who intend to travel to the United States represent a threat to the security, law enforcement, and immigration interests of the United States." The signed document represents a shift in the Czech Republic stance on PNR Agreement between EU and USA. The government of the Czech Republic approved the PNR Agreement last summer, but the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared its reservations regarding the parliamentary ratification and necessity to uphold European data protection standarts. However, in the new Memorandum of Understanding with the USA, the Czech Ministry of Interior declares its intention "to collect, analyze, use, and share Advance Passenger Information (API)" and "to collect, analyze, use, and share Passenger Name Record (PNR)". The document was adopted by the Czech Government within the month after the U.S. Homeland Security Department senior representative Richard Barth visited the Czech Republic to have a series of talks on the matter. The Memorandum of Understanding was not sent for comments to the Czech Data Protection Authority nor to the Ministry for Human Rights. It was subject to strong criticism from the European Commission which has insisted that EU member states should proceed jointly to the debates on visa policy and that bilateral agreements were not a correct solution. The European Commission spokesman even said that the Commission had reserved itself the right to take possible legal steps against Prague. The Agreement was also strongly criticised by EDRi-member Iuridicum Remedium and some representatives of the opposition parties in the Czech Parliament. The Memorandum of Understanding refers to the new American Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system, the details of which are still unclear and, according to the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, the amount of data to be provided to that system, as well as the entire procedure, will be subject to further negotiations in the coming months. Following the Czech Republic stance on the Memorandum of Understanding with the USA, a similar bilateral document has been signed so far by other five new EU member countries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Slovakia. Barrot to negotiate U.S. visas with Czechs instead of Frattini (only in Czech, 18.03.2008) (http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/vyhledavani/index_view.php?id=302885) Czechs view themselves victorious over EC in U.S. visa issues (only in Czech, 14.03.2008) (http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/vyhledavani/index_view.php?id=302076) Czech leftist opposition criticises Czech-U.S. memorandum ( only in Czech, 27.02.2008) (http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/vyhledavani/index_view.php?id=299167) Czech, U.S. ministers sign memorandum on visas (only in Czech, 26.02.2008) (http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/vyhledavani/index_view.php?id=298991) (contribution by Filip Pospísil - EDRi-member Iuridicum Remedium - Czech Republic)

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