Sunday

20th Sep 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.

Cyprus blocking EU sanctions on Belarus

Cyprus is holding hostage EU sanctions on Belarus in return for a new Turkey blacklist, EU sources said, as Greek and Turkish ministers traded harsh words in the EU parliament.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus president puts army on EU borders
  2. US: Lebanese group hoarding explosives in EU states
  3. Russia loses EU sanctions appeal
  4. UK guidelines explain Brexit treaty-violation plan
  5. Over 10,000 corona cases a day in France
  6. Greek police move Moria refugees following fire
  7. WHO warns Europe not to cut 14-day quarantine period
  8. MEPs urge EU Council to 'finally' protect rights in Poland

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. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Commissioner: No one will like new EU migration pact
  2. Buying an EU passport 'no use for evading sanctions'
  3. MEPs call for first-ever EU law on Romani inclusion
  4. EU to help draft Libya's strategy on border security
  5. Spain to recognise Kosovo if it gets Serbia deal
  6. Ylva Johansson on Migration and Drama Queens
  7. Does Erdoğan's long arm now reach Belgian universities?
  8. Biden threatens UK trade deal over Brexit shambles

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us