The home secretary, Theresa May, led demands for a new Europe-wide travel database to track the movement of all air, train and ferry passengers at an emergency meeting of EU interior ministers in Paris on Sunday.
While 4 million people marched in the name of liberty across France, the EU ministers, joined by senior US ministers, agreed to step up their drive against radicalisation, particularly on the internet, and to disrupt the movement of terrorist networks.
The joint statement said: “We are further convinced of the crucial and urgent need to move toward a European passenger name record (PNR) framework, including intra-EU PNR. We are prepared to move forward, adopting a constructive approach with the European parliament.”
May said after the meeting: “There was firm support at the meeting for new action to share intelligence, track the movement of terrorists and defeat their ideology. It is important that we now deliver on these talks so we can keep all our citizens safe from the very serious threat we all face.”
But the decision by EU interior ministers to moves towards a “database state” brought a warning from leading members of the European parliament that such “big brother measures” involving blanket data retention without justification amounted to a distraction from the actual measures needed to deal with terrorism.
Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green and a leading member of the European parliament’s civil liberties committee, Libe, warned: “The mass storage of flight and passenger data is clearly at odds with EU law, as the European court of justice, has made clear. At the same time, far-reaching data collection in France would not have prevented the odious attacks in Paris this week.