MEPs seek to exempt citizens with joint EU citizenship from US travel ban

Daniel Boffey in Brussels
Jean-Claude Juncker has been asked to hold an emergency meeting of the joint EU-US committee, which examines conflicts over air transport agreement. Photograph: Isopix/Rex/Shutterstock

The European parliament has taken a first step in trying to prevent Donald Trump’s attempted travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries affecting those with joint EU citizenship, by testing the legality of the order under an international agreement.

MEPs hope the EU will be able to prevent discrimination under the terms of an aviation agreement signed by the US and the bloc in 2007 that threw open US and EU airports to all American and European carriers.

The chair of the parliament’s transport committee, Karima Delli, has written to the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, to ask if he will hold an emergency meeting of the joint EU-US committee, which examines conflicts over the EU-US air transport agreement.

It is hoped that the president’s executive order will be found in breach of the “open skies” deal by causing undue interference in the business models of EU airlines.

If the EU is unable to successfully argue that case, MEPs intend to argue that the agreement should be amended, or that EU legislation be devised to ensure that there cannot be any discrimination against European nationals based on religious affiliation.

“That is our end goal,” a source close to the committee said. “It is important to put this on the agenda. The European commission may not be able to do anything but it needs to send a message about our values.”

In an internal letter to Juncker, passed to the Guardian, the committee’s chair writes: “My committee has mandated me to write to you in order to seek your views regarding the signing, on 27 January 2017, of an executive order banning nationals of seven countries with a Muslim majority population from entering US territory by President Donald Trump ...

“The tran[sport] committee expresses its deepest concern regarding the current situation, which it sees as highly unstable and damaging for the European air transport sector.”

The International Air Transport Association has already complained that Trump’s executive order was issued “without prior coordination or warning, causing confusion among both airlines and travellers”. “It also placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements, to bear implementation costs and to face potential penalties for non-compliance,” a statement said.

However, the MEPs initiative is the first attempt to test the legality of the executive order under an international agreement.

Trump’s original executive order, signed a week after he took office, banned citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US and temporarily suspended the entry of all refugees.

A federal court issued a temporary stay that prevented its implementation, a decision later upheld by a panel of three judges.

A senior administration official told Associated Press earlier this week of Trump’s plans to roll out a fresh refugee and immigration executive order on Wednesday. Trump reportedly delayed unveiling the new plan in the wake of positive reaction to his first address to Congress.