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SWIFT agreement - Commission insufficiently sweetening a very bitter pill


24 Mar 2010

"The benefit of an agreement granting US anti-terrorism authorities access to European bank data isn’t clear to me, no matter how many sweeteners in terms of small data protection provisions are added" says Cornelia Ernst, German GUE/NGL MEP on the European Parliament's Civil Liberties committee.

Following Parliament's rejection of the EU-US SWIFT agreement on bank data transfers in February, the Commission has now come up with a proposal for a new mandate to restart negotiations with the US. This proposal takes on board some of the problems raised by MEPs and organisations involved in recent consultations, both having criticized the lack of data protection and data security and the inadequate legal protections for European citizens.

"All these small amendments should not distract from the fact that the US definition of terrorism is broader than the European one and that for technical reasons it is nearly impossible to send specific data instead of larger files".

Ernst shares the view of the German Federal Criminal Police Office which had reservations about the use of the data in the fight against terrorism. "Terrorists will find other ways to raise funds and given that we already have alternative legal measures to access data where there is a strong suspicion of an offence, I have doubts about the real reasons behind this agreement", says Ernst.

If Member States accept this proposal, the Commission will restart official negotiations with the US government for a permanent agreement. A proposal developed on this basis would then come up for approval by Parliament.

Brussels, 24 March 2010 

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