The curious tale of the French prime minister, PNR and peculiar patterns – by Estelle Massé & Joe McNameen
This blind faith in the value of passenger profiling — despite the lack of evidence for its efficacy in preventing crime or terrorism — argues for deeper reflection. So, we followed the advice of Timothy Kirkhope, the MEP in charge of the EU PNR file, who once explained that PNR was not about profiling, it was just about “patterns in data.”
We began “looking for patterns” to explain what has been happening and we found one. It turns out that [Manuel] Valls is a cheerleader both for the PNR directive and for a company called #Safran, which sells PNR surveillance technology.
Safran has a major base in Evry, the small town south of Paris where Valls was mayor from 2001-2012. The company employs more than 3,300 people and, earlier this year, Valls visited the site and discussed Safran’s role in ensuring long-term employment in the region. The French government said in a statement following the visit, “We have one aim: that the French industry stays ahead.”
The company now appears to be in fine fettle. It won major contracts to put in place expensive #PNR_systems in France and #Estonia. Now that the PNR directive will make such systems mandatory across the EU, it is also seeking contracts in several other EU countries.
That’s not the end of the story. The pattern of links between Valls and Safran run even deeper. According to the French news outlet Marianne, in 2012, when a Safran contract was not renewed, Valls, who was then interior minister, allegedly intervened to help the company. He appears to have done so despite the fact that the proposed change to the contract could have saved €30 million of public funds.
Bertrand Marechaux, the police chief who questioned the contract, kept fighting to modify it and initiating legal proceedings against Mopho, a subsidiary of Safran. He was ultimately removed from his position. Valls’ office didn’t respond to Marianne’s request for comment at the time.
We think this compelling pattern should spur the public to start asking questions. Was Prime Minister Valls truly eager for the symbolic adoption of the EU PNR or did he want his old constituency to benefit? Hard to know. More of the pattern for Valls’ behaviour could surface following MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld’s question to the Commission regarding the #lobbying communications of companies that have won bids for building PNR systems in EU member states.