Thursday

13th Aug 2020

International banking giant pressured to block Israel and Russia

  • Russia's banks will continue to use Swift (Photo: SWIFT)

The international wire transfer system Swift will not block Russia or Israel from its services following requests for it to do so.

The Belgian-based firm on Monday (6 October) said it had received calls to disconnect institutions and entire countries – most recently Israel and Russia - from its network.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“Any decision to impose sanctions on countries or individual entities rests solely with the competent government bodies and applicable legislators,” it said in a statement.

It did not specify who made the requests.

But Haaretz reports pro-Palestinian organizations made the requests in reaction to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and recent military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Bloomberg reports the UK had proposed blocking Russia from Swift in the run-up to an EU summit in August even though the option was not formally considered.

Summit leaders at the time were discussing wider economic sanctions and travel bans in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Behind the scenes, the Americans had also floated the Swift idea on Russia.

The Financial Times, citing Russia’s former finance minister, says blocking Russia’s access to Swift could see the country’s gross domestic product contract by up to 5 percent.

Russian banks rely on Swift to make domestic and international payments, it notes.

The European Parliament, for its part, in September made similar demands in a resolution. It asked the EU to “consider excluding Russia from civil nuclear co-operation and the Swift system”.

It would not be the first time the firm has been asked to impose a ban.

In March 2012, it disconnected 25 Iranian banks from its networks following an EU regulation on financial sanctions.

Swift in its statement on Monday said the political pressure and media speculations run the risk of undermining its operations and services.

“As a utility with a systemic global character, it has no authority to make sanctions decisions,” it reaffirmed.

The company was already dragged into the wider scandal of indiscriminate global surveillance last year when leaked documents from a former National Security Agency contractor said the US was hacking into Swift to access people’s financial details.

Swift describes itself as a neutral global cooperative set up under Belgian law.

The firm provides services to over 10,500 financial institutions and corporations in over 200 jurisdictions around the world. Payment orders are said to total around €4.7 trillion a day.

The company was set up in 1973 and is overseen by the G-10 central banks: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States, Switzerland, and Sweden as well as the European Central Bank.

Minsk violence prompts talk of EU sanctions

Images of bloody injuries after police attacked protesters with batons and stun grenades marked Belarus' latest sham election, posing questions on EU sanctions.

News in Brief

  1. Amazon people urge EU banks to stop funding pollution
  2. Russia vaccine could be "dangerous", Germany says
  3. EU to finance new Covid-19 research projects
  4. Croatia receives EU earthquake relief funds
  5. Facemasks required throughout Brussels
  6. EU opposes Mexico's transparent junk food labels
  7. Greece accuses Turkey of 'escalation' in maritime dispute
  8. Slovakia expels three Russians linked to Berlin murder

Feature

The Hagia Sophia and the global battle of symbols

The Turkish president's decision to restart Islamic worship services in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia last Friday is not innocent. So how should we react? By doing the opposite - and make Cordoba's famous Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba a museum.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Belarus violence goes on, as EU ministers scramble
  2. French navy to deter Turkey's oil and gas grab
  3. EU ministers urged to talk Belarus, Turkey sanctions
  4. Drums of war again, in Europe
  5. EU looks on as Belarus protests turn lethal
  6. EU virus-alert agency says new restrictions needed
  7. Minsk violence prompts talk of EU sanctions
  8. Schrems privacy ruling risks EU's ties to digital world

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us