Monday

16th Sep 2019

Clinton calls parliament chief over bank data deal

  • Back in 2009, Hillary Clinton was the EU parliament's darling (Photo: European Parliament)

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.

Ms Clinton's late-night phonecall to Mr Buzek comes on top of other efforts by the US administration to try and convince EU lawmakers not to reject 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

On Wednesday, US ambassador to Brussels William E. Kennard went to the European Parliament and held talks with several political group leaders and MEPs dealing with justice and home affairs.

The day before, Stuart Levey, the under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, wrote an op-ed in Europolitics warning against the "tragic mistake" of scrapping the deal.

The interim deal, which came into force provisionally on 1 February but still requires the European Parliament's approval to be legally binding, allows US authorities to tap into intra-European bank transactions as part of anti-terrorist investigations.

MEPs were infuriated when EU ministers agreed the interim deal with the US on 30 November last year, just a day before the bloc's new rulebook, the Lisbon Treaty, came into force. The treaty give euro-deputies a greater say over data protection issues.

The controversial deal was negotiated to help the US out of a legal hole, following the relocation of the US database of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) to the Netherlands on 1 January.

It will only be in force until the end of September, allowing the negotiation of a full agreement, together with the EU parliament, in the intervening time.

A majority against the deal seemed to be forming on Wednesday, when the second-largest group – the Socialists and Democrats – joined forces with the Liberals, Greens and far left to scrap the agreement.

The parliament's civil rights, justice and home affairs committee on Thursday (4 February) recommended that the plenary rejects the agreement. But parliament officials point out that this may be a "warning shot", while the final vote next week could still be positive.

The main argument of opponents to the deal was that the Parliament was sidelined in negotiations with the US authorities and the privacy guarantees for EU citizens were not satisfactory.

They also pointed out that scrapping the interim deal now would give the EU a bigger leverage for the final agreement, as currently only 60-70% of the parliament's recommendations on data protection have been taken into account.

Accepting this threshold now would give the Americans a reason not to make more concessions in the final agreement, they argue.

But supporters of the deal, especially within the parliament's biggest group – the centre-right European People's Party – point to the security gap if US authorities were to no longer receive Swift data until a final agreement is reached.

In Brussels' diplomatic circles, the parliament's muscle flexing is seen with increased concern.

"If it's voted down, the US will be extremely frustrated. It's not only about the security of Americans, it's also about the security of European citizens. The data that they send back to us is very useful in preventing terrorist attacks," one EU diplomat told this website.

Another one even called the vote a "test case for the credibility of the parliament" and warned against "playing politics with the security of our citizens."

On the diplomatic side, the rebuff would add up to increasingly cooling relations between the EU and US after a highly enthusiastic start last year upon the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Earlier this week, the Spanish EU presidency had to cancel a planned EU-US summit after being notified that Mr Obama would not attend the meeting in Madrid.

Swift in standby mode

Meanwhile, at Swift, company officials are waiting for the parliament's final say on the interim deal.

"We have a situation where there is an agreement, but no legal basis on which Swift can be compelled to give information to US authorities," Euan Sellar, the company's spokesman told this website.

He added that there was no request yet from the US side to send any information, after the company reconfigured its data structure on 1 January.

"For us it's a good agreement, it enables us to ensure that data of our customers is protected, we know who gets the data and how it's used," Mr Sellar added.

Roughly 60 percent of the data processed by Swift is European, the rest is American and Asian.

The company records international transactions worth trillions of dollars daily, between nearly 8,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries.

Bank data transfer deal with US reached

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

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.

US links EU security partnership to bank data deal

US national security advisor James Jones on Saturday reassured Europe that the transatlantic partnership continues to be strong, but underlined the need for the European Parliament to allow American investigators to access EU banking data to track terrorism funding.

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us