10 May 2004
Ridge, EU Officials Discuss Passenger Data, Aviation Security
Dept. of Homeland Security chief meets May
10 with EU's Vitorino
Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge met with European
Union (EU) officials in Washington May 10 to discuss aviation
security issues, including the provision of air passenger name
record (PNR) data by EU countries for use in the U.S. passenger
"The United States, like the European Union, wishes to keep
our borders open to travelers and trade, but closed to terrorists," said
Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. "And I believe we
are confident that we can find an acceptable means to share
this important security information and ensure proper privacy
and liberty for our citizens."
In December 2003, after a year of negotiations, the United
States and the EU reached a preliminary agreement on the legal
transfer of PNR data. The European Commission, the EU's governing
body, issued an "adequacy finding" that affirmed that U.S.
privacy protections are legal and sufficient to guard passenger
However, on April 21, 2004, the European Parliament, which
viewed the transfer of data as a breach of EU privacy laws,
voted to refer the draft agreement to the European Court of
Justice in Luxembourg.
Antonio Vitorino, EU commissioner of justice and home affairs,
joined Ridge in a joint press briefing after their meeting
and noted that the European Commission will make a decision
on May 12 on whether to go forward with the December agreement,
and on May 17 "the Council of Ministers will take the final
It is "likely" those decisions will be in favor of the adequacy
finding statement and the data-sharing agreement, he said.
"That will most likely change the nature of the case, the
court case, that has been raised by the Parliament. But I see
no obstacles for the proceedings, according to what has been
agreed, until the court takes a position in some time," Vitorino
He also praised the Bush administration's efforts to have
Congress extend the biometric passport deadline for 27 countries
- mostly EU member countries - beyond October 26, 2004. At
that time, those 27 so-called visa waiver countries are required
to have machine-readable passports with biometric indicators,
such as digital finger scans or photographs, in order for their
citizens to enter the United States without a visa as the law
"We are determined to introduce biometric features in the
European citizens' passports," Vitorino said. "We are determined
to conclude this process in order to guarantee that the travel
documents of the European Union citizens will be more secure."
The Bush administration has asked that the biometric passport
deadline be extended to November 30, 2006.
Ridge and Vitorino also answered questions about the effect
of the Iraqi prisoner abuse photos on their anti-terrorism
cooperation; safety at the upcoming G-8 summit in Sea Island,
Georgia; and safety at the summer Olympics in Athens.
Following is a transcript of their press briefing:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
May 10, 2004
REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY TOM RIDGE AND EUROPEAN
UNION COMMISSIONER OF JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS ANTONIO VITORINO
May 10, 2004
SECRETARY RIDGE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. First
of all, on behalf of the President and the Administration,
I want to welcome the Commissioner Vitorino, the European Union
Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, Director General
Faull [Jonathan Faull, director-general for Justice and Home
Affairs], and the European Union's Counterterrorism Coordinator.
Mr. [Gijs] de Vries, it's a great pleasure to welcome you as
well. Congratulations on -- I think -- congratulations on your
appointment. (Laughter.) It's good to be with you.
The Commissioner and his colleagues and I have had the opportunity
to meet and discuss several issues of mutual concern. This
is including aviation security but certainly not limited to
The United States shares an important relationship with the
European Union and her member nations. In nearly every field
of human endeavor, we share a partnership built on common interest,
common goals and mutual respect. We both value freedom and
liberty above all else and wish to secure these blessings for
Of course, we also share the heartbreak, the devastation,
and the despair of terrorist attacks at home. However, together
we are resilient and we are determined. We both realize that
security for our individual countries and for freedom throughout
the world must rely upon collective action.
As airplanes connect family and friends across oceans, and
cargo ships make ports of call around the world, we must find
ways to work together to reduce our common vulnerabilities
to terrorist attack.
And I'm pleased to say we have already. Just a few weeks ago,
the United States and the European Union signed an agreement
to further expand our Container Security Initiative, or CSI.
We pledged to share tools, to share information and best practices
necessary to secure our ports and oceans from attack.
And we continued that commitment in our discussions today.
We had a good discussion about the need to share advance passenger
information data so that we can protect our skies and keep
terrorists off commercial airliners and away from our borders.
We share a common interest in making this vital information
available in a manner that will help us protect our citizens
while, at the same time, maintaining the privacy of that information
of these travelers.
We are all welcoming societies. And as I mentioned, we have
a commitment to maintaining the type of cultural and economic
exchanges that are so valuable to our respective countries.
The United States, like the European Union, wishes to keep
our borders open to travelers and trade, but closed to terrorists.
And I believe we are confident that we can find an acceptable
means to share this important security information and ensure
proper privacy and liberty for our citizens.
Our talks today and several others like it that will happen
over the course of both today and tomorrow will add to the
important agreements we expect to reach with our fellow G-8
countries. It's another indication that there is more to unite
us than divide.
Most of all, we are united by an abiding desire to provide
security and safety for our citizens, and by the freedoms that
bind us as partners in the world community.
I might add that in addition to the discussion of aviation
security, it was pretty clear, given the roles and responsibilities
of the Department of Homeland Security, that the connections
that this particular Department has with the European Union
and its member nations go far, far beyond just the question
of aviation security and we look forward to building a more
complete relationship on this range of issues with the European
Union in the future.
And I'd ask the Commissioner Vitorino to share a few thoughts.
COMMISSIONER VITORINO: Thanks so much, Secretary Ridge. First
of all, on behalf of Gijs de Vries, the new Anti-terrorism
Coordinator, and on behalf of the European Commission, I want
to thank you very much for this very productive and fruitful
We have been working together because we share the same values
and we share the same political objectives. We want to guarantee
that in the transatlantic relationship, there is freedom of
movement, that this freedom of movement is guaranteed in the
fight against terrorism.
We want to have a world where there is security, and for the
purpose of security, we need to cooperate more closely.
A lot has already been done since the 9/11, and since the
terror tragic events also that occurred in March this year
in Madrid. But a lot has to be done in the future.
We praise the efforts of the American Administration to get
an agreement with the European Union on the Container Security
Initiative, also on the screening of airline passengers. That
is something likely to be concluded in the very short term
on the basis of a bilateral agreement between the European
Union and the United States of America.
But the agenda ahead of us with now have to focus on border
controls, and that's why, for the Justice and Home Affairs
area, it is extremely important to have a close cooperation
with the Homeland Security Department.
Border controls mean enhancing security in travel documents.
And the European Union is committed to introduce biometric
features in their visas, in their residence permits for third-country
nationals who live in the territory of the member states. We
are determined to introduce biometric features in the European
citizens' passports. That's why we praise the initiative of
the American Administration and Congress to postpone the deadline
of requirement for biometric features in the passports for
an extra period of time.
We are determined to conclude this process in order to guarantee
that the travel documents of the European Union citizens will
be more secure. And when I say the travel documents of European
citizens, I'm talking about the 25 member states of the European
Union as well.
Finally, I'd just like to say that the fight against terrorism
is not a short-term fight. We need to be prepared for a long-term
fight. And both in the area of border controls, in the area
of freedom of movement of people, but also in the area of police
cooperation, a changing of intelligence and judicial cooperation.
There is a lot to be done but there is a lot that a joint partnership
between the European Union and the United States can offer
to a safer world. Thank you so much.
SECRETARY RIDGE: Sir.
QUESTION: Secretary Ridge and Commissioner Vitorino, you talked
about the fight against terrorism, the joint working on this.
Given the light of these recent photos from Iraq and prisoner
detainee abuse photos, do you feel this has made both of your
jobs more difficult in fighting terrorism here in the U.S.
and in European countries? And could it incite Muslim communities
here in the U.S. and the European communities, making your
job even more difficult, in light of all of this?
SECRETARY RIDGE: That is fairly difficult to predict, but
I'm willing to go out on the proverbial limb and say to you
that the relationship between the United States and the European
Union on the wide range of issues that the Commissioner has
raised in his public remarks and we discussed privately, I
think is -- there is a momentum there that will continue to
build because we realize that in spite of what the revelations
may be as they relate to treatment of prisoners in Iraq, there's
a longer-term interest that we have in this bilateral relationship
to deal with aviation and port security, to deal with the exchange
of information. And so I don't believe, in any way, that it
will be a deterrent or impede what have been very positive
and accelerated developments in these areas. I just don't believe
QUESTION: But in terms of perception, you know, you're trying
to deal with these countries. As the furor countries, especially
in Muslim communities around the world, does this make it more
SECRETARY RIDGE: I would let the Commissioner address that,
but I think what we have seen is abhorrent to freedom-loving
people everywhere, that what has been disclosed and may be
disclosed equally dishonorable, distasteful, and known and
accepted as absolutely wrong, even unconscionable treatment.
Having said that, that is separate and apart from the work
that we have undertaken and will undertake in the months and
years ahead. There's a longer-term goal to combat international
terrorism, and while the United States is focused on these
particular set of revelations, that will not distract us. And
I don't want to speak for the Commissioner, but I don't --
it will certainly not distract the Department of Homeland Security
from continuing to build the relationship with the European
QUESTION: It doesn't take away our credibility with these
communities? Both of you.
COMMISSIONER VITORINO: Well, first of all, let me just say
that it is crystal clear that the European Union and the United
States Administration condemn any kind of abuse of prisoners
and there we share precisely the same position.
I would like to recall you that when we were on the eve of
the Iraq intervention, there were different views within the
European Union, and between some European Union member states
and the United States of America. That is well known. And even
in that precise moment, we did succeed in signing, with the
United States of America, the extradition agreement and the
mutual legal assistance agreement. Why? Because we wanted to
make it very clear that our commitment to fight terrorism,
especially in these areas of police cooperation, judicial cooperation,
border control cooperation, is not hostage of any kind of foreign
QUESTION: Are you worried about the community impacts?
COMMISSIONER VITORINO: We are worried about the relationship
with Muslim community in Europe far beyond this evidence. That
is a permanent element of our strategy to address the fight
against terrorism. We need to know better about recruitment
procedures, about slipping cells, and above all, we need to
establish a very close partnership with Muslim moderates who
live in the European Union to succeed in this fight.
QUESTION: But does this affect them at all, though, these
COMMISSIONER VITORINO: I would say that we will go on with
this irrespective of this kind of evidence.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you discuss security of the upcoming
G-8 summit? And is there a lot of concern, the fight international
-- big international event on U.S. soil in a while.
SECRETARY RIDGE: With regard to the --
QUESTION: The G-8 summit in Georgia, yeah.
SECRETARY RIDGE: -- security of the G-8 summit?
QUESTION: Is that something you discussed this morning?
SECRETARY RIDGE: Yes, I'd be pleased to discuss it. As you
all know, the Department designated that as a Special National
Security Event. There are literally thousands and thousands
of law enforcement agents from the federal, state and local
level. There are probably well over a dozen federal agencies
involved in providing security in that particular site. And
every conceivable precaution or preventive measure has been
taken, and we're quite comfortable that we can welcome to a
beautiful area in Georgia our friends from around the world
during the G-8 summit with a guarantee that it may be the safest
place on the face of the earth during the time they're visiting.
QUESTION: Could you talk a little bit about the Olympics,
the same theory? You had a meeting last week. I know we're
not sending people over, right? But you're providing advice
-- and what kind of level of concern do you have right now
about how security is?
SECRETARY RIDGE: We had a very productive meeting with our
friends from Greece with regard to security around the Olympics.
In actuality, the Department of Homeland Security has had several
people over there dealing with aviation security, port security,
in terms of rendering advice, trying to offer opinions we think
will be helpful and substantive.
I think there's been a tremendous amount of progress made
with regard to security at the Olympics. In the past several
months, it's pretty clear that they are going to continue to
work to enhance that security at the ports and the airports
and the like.
But we felt good about the very productive meetings and that
-- the pledge of the Greek Government to continue to work on
enhancing and broadening security every single day, up through,
including and through the Olympics.
So, a good productive session. I think there was still more
work that needed to be done, and we clearly indicated if there
was a way that the Department of Homeland Security could be
of assistance in a bilateral way, we would be open and welcome
the opportunity to assist if they thought we could.
SECRETARY RIDGE: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have a Plan B if the European Court of Justice
rules that the advance passenger information agreement violates
European privacy laws?
SECRETARY RIDGE: Well, I'm not quite familiar with the technicalities
of a ruling of that sort. My sense is that it would -- I believe
we would still be able to continue to exchange the passenger
name records, but I'm going to ask the Commissioner to publicly
assess the impact if we had an unfavorable decision from the
COMMISSIONER VITORINO: Well, first of all, I would like to
clarify that the conclusion of this process has not yet been
done. And this week, the Commission will take a decision on
Wednesday. And next Monday, the Council of Ministers will take
the final decision.
I don't want to anticipate those decisions, but likely those
decisions will be in favor in the sense to go ahead with the
adequacy finding statement and with the international agreement.
That will most likely change the nature of the case, the court
case, that has been raised by the Parliament. But I see no
obstacles for the proceedings, according to what has been agreed,
until the court takes a position in some time.
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