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EU signs air passenger data deal with U.S.

Reuters | October 16 2006

The European Union signed on Monday a deal giving U.S. law enforcement agencies easier access to air passenger data, ending a legal limbo for airlines, the EU presidency said.

The agreement, clinched on October 6 after tough negotiations, enters into force as soon as the United States also signs it, which is expected later on Monday, a spokesman for the EU's Finnish presidency said.

EU aid and trade ministers, who were meeting on Monday in Luxembourg, gave the green light for the bloc's signature.

The spokesman said U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was also to sign the deal on Monday.

The deal was negotiated after the EU's top court in May struck down a previous agreement on a legal technicality, following a challenge by the European Parliament.

Under the new agreement, European airlines must pass up to 34 items of data, including passengers' addresses, telephone numbers and credit card details, in order to be allowed to land at U.S. airports.

The agreement will apply only until July 2007.

The two sides will negotiate a long-term agreement in the meantime and Brussels is likely to face U.S. demands for more data and fewer restrictions.

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