The Estonian government has endorsed a European Union directive aimed at preventing irregular immigration and improving border controls, as well as streamlining current passenger data.
The directive, which BNS reports can also be implemented in law enforcement purposes, was endorsed by the government at a sitting on Thursday.
The directive gives air carriers the obligation to collect advance passenger information (API) from passengers arriving in the EU or Schengen Area from third (i.e. non-EU) countries, BNS reports.
The European Commission is requesting feedback from parties involved on whether the directive's scope of application could also be extended to flights within the EU and Schengen, as well as to sea and land transport companies, according to BNS.
The collection of passenger name record (PNR) data has been carried out pursuant to the EU directive 2016/681.
However, data communication pursuant to the new API directive differs from the earlier PNR directive in terms of the data itself, as well as the moment of the data's transmission and the principles of its processing, according to BNS.
Internal EU flights so far have seen law enforcement authorities only collecting PNR data, and then only in anti-terrorism and other sever crime prevention measures.
There is also a justified need, however, to collect passenger data on flights within the EU for the purposes of other procedures, such as cases of irregular migration and detection of persons staying in a country with no legal basis to do so, BNS reports.
Estonia's official position is that since PNR data also includes API, it is reasonable to create a single channel through which transport companies would only be required to communicate the data to the state once.
API data collection should be extended to internal EU flights, it has been argued, and would lead to efficiency gains in crime prevention and investigation, though domestic flights reportedly should be excluded from this requirement.
Another aspect that should be analyzed at EU level is the possibility of extending the obligation to collect advance passenger data to other transport operators, and not just flight operators.
An impact and proportionality analysis into the possibility should also include the impact on the competitiveness of various types of transportation and, in case of land transport, also take into account the alternative option of using private vehicles instead of public transport, according to BNS.
Editor: Andrew Whyte