The agreement will oblige airlines flying from the EU to Canada to transfer selected passenger data to the Canadian authorities, in order to help identify passengers who could present a security threat.
It follows a more controversial deal signed with the US last May.
The US deal was criticised because the US does not meet general EU data protection requirements and because the agreement itself does not provide provide sufficient protection, in terms of EU law, for European passengers travelling to the US.
That deal was pushed through despite objections from the European Parliament, which has since challenged the legality of the agreement in the European Court of Justice. The case is still pending.
The Canadian deal is less controversial because Canada is one of the few countries that is recognised by the EU as having adequate data protection, while the agreement itself is less demanding than that agreed with the US.
It includes a commitment from Canada to ensure rights of recourse for Canadian and non-Canadian passengers should they dispute the way in which their data has been recorded or handled; it requires fewer items of data to be transferred in respect of each passenger and provides that the data transfer will take place by means of the “push” system rather than the “pull” system.
This means that the Canadian authorities have to ask for the information rather than having immediate access to it.
Despite approving the content of the agreement, the European Parliament still rejected the deal in July, on the grounds that the Commission should not sign any more passenger data agreements until the European Court of Justice has ruled on the legality of the US deal.
However, the Parliament's rejection was not binding on the Commission.
“I am pleased to be signing this agreement today, after over two years of painstaking work,” said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, yesterday. "By combining high security standards with protection for civil liberties, the agreement represents the latest concrete expression of the EU and Canada’s shared commitment to tackling global security threats such as terrorism in a manner consistent with the principles and values of our democracies."
The Agreement will enter into force once notes have been exchanged confirming that the Canada has completed the regulatory changes necessary for full implementation.