EU, US to Review Trans-Atlantic Flight Passenger List Deal

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- A review of the agreement that allows the U.S. access to trans-Atlantic aircraft passenger lists will begin in the next few weeks, officials said Thursday.

''We will have a team of officials going out from Brussels to the U.S. looking precisely how the agreement is being implemented,'' said Jonathan Faull, an official in the EU commission's directorate for justice and home affairs, after meeting Rand Beardsworth, acting undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The agreement, which went into effect last year and is to last for 3½ years, gives U.S. authorities access to information about passengers on trans-Atlantic flights.

The information is checked against U.S. databases to determine if any travelers are terrorist threats.

EU officials will inspect airports and agencies where the data is used during the review, Faull said.

The deal is vehemently opposed by a majority of lawmakers in the European Parliament which decided last year to take the deal to the EU's high court to try and get it scrapped.

The EU assembly, backed by privacy advocate groups, argues the deal violates EU privacy rules.

Beardsworth said the data transfer deal had been working and said the United States is ''very much committed to carrying out this review.''

He said the passenger data deal had nothing to do with the recent spate of trans-Atlantic flights that had been diverted over fears they contained passengers on American no-fly lists.

Last week an Air France flight from Paris to Boston was diverted to the U.S. state of Maine because U.S. authorities wanted to check a passenger. Last September, a London-to-Washington flight carrying the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens was diverted to the same airport.

He said diversions could be prevented if data was handed over to U.S. authorities prior to the departure of flights

The talks also focused on other anti-terror security cooperation between the 25-nation EU and Washington, including boosting security of passports, visa waivers and transport security in cargo and shipping.

The U.S. Congress warned EU countries earlier this year not to expect another deadline extension to implement new U.S. rules on issuing biometric passports but the EU has said it will not be ready by the Oct. 26 deadline.

Washington has said that all EU passports issued after that date will need to have biometric security elements, fitted with a microchip containing facial features, if the passport holder wants to enter the United States.