This requirement already applies to airlines and private aircraft flying in and out of Belgian airports. The Belgian government cites the move as a response to previous terrorist attacks and to prevent other serious crime.

The trial exchange of PNR data, which the Belgian government says has already been agreed with the British government, will be tested on Eurostar services between Brussels and London. Long-distance bus operator Flixbus is also included in the trial for its services operating from Belgium. The Belgian government has the powers to undertake this date collection as, under the PNR Directive, member states are allowed to determine their own approach for trains, buses and ferries.

According to reports in the Belgian media, the information will be given to the newly-created Passenger Information Unit within the Interior Ministry (known as the Federal Public Service of Belgium) where Belgian Federal Police, customs, security services and military intelligence share data.

IRJ Comment

The Belgian government sees the trials as pilots that will be undertaken before deploying the system more widely; whether - or how - this will include all intra-Schengen rail travel is unclear. The move currently appears totally impractical as, with the exception of Eurostar and Thalys, no rail operator requires identification information or pre-reservation. It is difficult to see how such a system could be applied to the many cross-border services operating from Belgium to Germany and the Netherlands daily without increasing staff and considerable bureaucracy.

Without instituting similar requirements on the hundreds of thousands of motorists who cross Belgium’s borders daily, the measure will also discriminate against public transport and will further decrease its attractiveness. If the PNR requirements are not applied equally to drivers and car passengers on the road network the entire exercise will be pointless as those wishing to avoid detection will simply use the car.