24th Nov 2020

EU and US seal agreement on bank data transfers

  • Swift records almost all international bank transactions (Photo: Swift)

The EU commission has finalised a draft agreement on transferring European banking data to the US as part of anti-terrorist investigations.

Home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is today (15 June) set to present the draft agreement in Strasbourg, after gaining approval of the other commissioners. The text, which has been published by StateWatch, a civil liberties watchdog, will be then forwarded to the Council of ministers and the European Parliament for its consent.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

An earlier interim deal was rejected in February by the EU legislature, due to data privacy concerns and inter-institutional power struggling. It strained EU-US relations but put the Parliament's newly acquired powers centre-stage.

This time around, the Swedish commissioner believes the provisions have been "significantly" altered and will gather the support of euro-deputies. They may approve the agreement in July.

As outlined last week by Ms Malmstrom in anticipation of the final deal, the text says that all data sent to the US has to be based on an anti-terrorist investigation and that no random scanning, profiling or data mining will be allowed.

The transferred data will include a whole range of personal information on the initiator and recipient of a transaction, such as name, address and national identification number.

The agreement provides the right of rectification, erasure and blocking of wrong data, along with administrative and judicial redress. The latter has been a constant sticking point for MEPs.

Several layers of independent auditors are set to scrutinise the respect of all data privacy provisions. Similar reports by an EU-appointed auditor last year failed to convince MEPs, however.

As was the case in the past, the US pledges to send any leads on terrorism finance to police authorities in the member states concerned, as well as the bloc's police agency Europol and the justice co-operation body Eurojust.

A novelty of the draft agreement is the provision that Europol will verify all data requests from the US department of treasury – the entity where the "Terrorism Finance Tracking Programme" is based.

It was set up in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks and seriously strained transatlantic relations in 2006 when it emerged that it was tapping a secret US-based database of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), the main company facilitating and keeping track of international transactions.

Following the scandal, the Belgium-based company decided to reconfigure its database structure so that European transactions were no longer mirrored in the US. The change occurred on 1 January, which justified the rush to vote in an interim agreement in February, so as to avoid a "security gap."

'Golden Passports': Malta takes 67 days to respond to EU

The European Commission exchanged 24 letters with Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta over their 'Golden Passports' schemes between October 2019 and October 2020. Malta took 67 days to respond to the commission's first letter, followed by Cyprus (42) then Bulgaria.

EU to target migrant integration and encrypted apps

Migrants ought to learn EU languages and "integrate" their children, while encrypted messaging apps should give keys to authorities to combat terrorism, EU ministers are preparing to say.

EU Commission: EU free-travel overhaul planned

Plans to reform the EU free-travel zone were already announced in September by the European Commission. On Friday, it re-stated those intentions following demands by the French president for a major overhaul.


Rule-of-law deal: major step for Europe of values

At the very moment when an incumbent president across the Atlantic was carrying out staggering attacks on the foundations of democracy, the European Parliament obtained a historic agreement to protect the rule of law in Europe.

EU to target migrant integration and encrypted apps

Migrants ought to learn EU languages and "integrate" their children, while encrypted messaging apps should give keys to authorities to combat terrorism, EU ministers are preparing to say.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. There is 'no Russia-Turkey alliance'
  2. EU air quality improves, but pollution levels still high
  3. 'Golden Passports': Malta takes 67 days to respond to EU
  4. Covid-19: Romania's rural kids hit hardest by pandemic
  5. 'We call on the EU to appoint a Horn of Africa envoy'
  6. Berlin Foreign Policy Forum 2020
  7. EU stands by anti-Covid drug, despite WHO doubts
  8. Russia is 'pre-eminent naval power' in Mediterranean

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us