Friday

26th Apr 2019

Bank data transfer deal with US reached

  • The US will continue to access bank transfer data from Europe as part of anti-terrorist queries (Photo: SWIFT)

EU justice ministers approved a provisional bank data transfer deal with the United States, allowing American anti-terrorist investigators to access European financial transaction data for another nine months.

The interim agreement had sparked controversy among European Greens and Liberals, who cited data privacy concerns and slammed member states for "rushing" to get the deal done before the European Parliament acquires more powers in this field. A day later, with the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the legislature would have had a bigger say on the agreement.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Germany and Austria also threatened to veto the deal, but abstained in the end. Their primary concern was that personal information could be transferred to US authorities and handed on to other governments.

"We have major problems with the agreement," Austrian interior minister Maria Fekter told reporters ahead of the meeting.

But she also recognised that "reduced legal protection is better than no protection at all."

"We have the option of abstaining, and to make a declaration on where we see the problems," she said.

The data transferred under the agreement includes name, address, national identification number and other personal data related to financial messages. European investigators, however, have no reciprocal means of obtaining similar data on US transactions.

"That would have to be negotiated next year as part of the final agreement, together with the European Parliament," one EU official said. The current interim deal only avoids a legal gap for the US side, as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) is relocating its database from US soil to Switzerland by the end of the year.

The interim agreement will come into force on 1 February and last for nine months, but can still be annulled by the European Parliament, who will have to give its consent on the deal at some point in the spring. Germany had reportedly asked for an even shorter deadline, of six months, to end this arrangement.

US treasury under-secretary Stuart Levey welcomed the interim agreement and said the information provided so far under the "Terrorist finance tracking programme" had helped investigators in thwarting terrorist plots.

He also rejected the privacy concerns noting that last year the EU had appointed a special expert to assess how American authorities were dealing with the data.

The French judge, Louis Bruguiere, concluded that the US was not abusing the gathered information and that the programme had "significant security benefits for the EU" itself.

In one of the cases, data gathered under this scheme helped the thwarting of a terrorist plot to attack transatlantic airline flights last year, leading to the conviction of three individuals in September 2009 in the UK. They were all sentenced to over 30 years in prison.

Clinton calls parliament chief over bank data deal

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has called EU parliament chief Jerzy Buzek to voice concern over a vote due next Thursday in which MEPs could scrap a deal allowing American investigators to track down terrorist funding via European bank transactions.

MEPs call for delay on US bank data deal

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek is planning to send a letter to the Council of Ministers, the EU institution representing member states, calling for a suspension of a recent agreement that was to enable the continued transfer of EU citizens' banking data to US investigators.

Prison suicide rates in France highest in Europe

Suicide rates per 10,000 inmates in 2017 in France stood at 12.6, higher than any other European country. The latest figures are part of a much bigger report out Tuesday by the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

News in Brief

  1. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  2. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  3. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  4. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  5. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave
  6. Far-right party leaders meet in Prague
  7. Priest shames politicians at reporter's funeral in Belfast
  8. Putin offers Russian citizenship to Ukraine regions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  2. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  3. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  4. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  5. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  6. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  7. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  8. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us