By Nicola Clark International Herald Tribune
PARIS -- The European Union's highest court on Tuesday overturned an agreement that provides Washington with personal data on air passengers flying to the United States from Europe. The decision did not address privacy issues, but it forces the two sides back to negotiations at a time when privacy safeguards are increasingly being debated. The European Court of Justice gave the European Commission four months to formulate a new agreement with the United States. Until then, current procedures remain in effect. The Luxembourg-based court found that the commission and the European Council lacked an adequate legal basis for the agreement they reached in May 2004. Specifically, the court ruled that because the information contained in passenger records is collected by airlines for their own commercial use, the European Union could not legally agree to provide that data to the U.S. authorities even for purposes of public security or law enforcement.