After years of trying to balance security needs with privacy rights, the European Union agreed Friday on a system to share airline passenger information, paving the way for closer scrutiny of extremists.
Spurred into action by the attacks in Paris, EU interior ministers moved to grant law-enforcement agencies access to information gathered by airlines like names, travel dates, itinerary, credit cards and contact details.
As they debated a security measure aimed at preventing future attacks, a cafe where five people were killed by the squad of Islamic extremist gunmen terrorizing central Paris last month reopened for business.
Under the passenger data deal, details would be collected from European carrier flights entering or leaving the EU, as well as from flights between member countries. Charter flights will be included, and all the information will be kept on file for six months.
Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister Etienne Schneider, who chaired the meeting in Brussels, expressed his “pride that after so many years of negotiations we have now been able to conclude an agreement.”
The so-called passenger name record agreement proposal was first made in 2007, and it has languished in the European Parliament for more than two years as EU lawmakers struggled to strike the right balance between security concerns and people’s privacy rights.
The assembly must still endorse the deal but that seems a formality and is likely to happen within the next month.
At least 5,000 Europeans are believed to have trained or fought in Syria and Iraq but authorities are struggling to track their movements and prove their activities.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve described the system as “indispensable in the fight against terrorism.”
The EU already has such passenger data deals with the U.S., Canada and Australia.
In Paris, patrons began returning as La Bonne Biere, a corner cafe in the trendy central district targeted by the gunmen, opened early Friday morning.
Since the attacks, the shuttered cafe has been piled high with flowers, like the other sites of the Nov. 13 attacks that left 130 people dead.
Paule Zlotnik, a neighboring shopkeeper, praised the decision: “It’s time they open and that we continue life as it was before.”
In surveillance video seen by The Associated Press, two gunmen in black calmly approached La Bonne Biere that night, firing deliberately on the outdoor tables before turning back toward a car that can be seen rolling slowly behind them.