Tuesday

24th Nov 2020

Commission official to bridge 'supervision gap' of Swift agreement

Pressed by the coming into force of the "Swift agreement" on 1 August, the EU commission is about to appoint an interim "technician" to oversee the searches conducted by US authorities on European bank transactions as part of anti-terrorist investigations.

The supervisor's task is to check the way American investigators are conducting their searches through the personal data of Europeans whenever they have a lead on a terrorism suspect receiving or sending money via the old continent.

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

  • The EU supervisor will have a technical but important job (Photo: Photo: Xoe Cranberry)

The main company targeted by this agreement is the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), which had been supplying the US with this data for its "Terrorism Finance Tracking Program" - initially a covert operation set up in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The appointment of this "independent EU person" was a condition laid down by the European Parliament for approving the deal last month, after it had struck down a previous version in February citing poor data protection provisions.

Under the job description, the interim supervisor, pending security clearance from the US authorities, will have the authority "to block any or all searches" that are broader than the scope of the agreement – for instance random searches or "algorithmic profiling or computer filtering."

But as the regular selection procedure is expected to last "two to three months", the EU commission is about to send someone provisionally to Washington, until the "definitive appointment" is made, a spokesman said Thursday (29 July).

The appointment was "very technical, not political" and the name of the interim official will not be made public, Michele Cercone, spokesman for home affairs, said during a press briefing.

The interim person could be someone holding a position within the EU mission in Washington and dealing with home affairs, which would mean that he or she already has the necessary clearance to take up the post next week.

Washington is eager to have the agreement in place as soon as possible, warning that the months lapsed since the beginning of the year, when the data flow was interrupted, resulted in a "security gap."

It is expected that an information request will be put forward by the end of next week, with the first data flowing around 20 August, after Europol, the EU police co-operation agency, had given its approval.

"Because everything was rushed through, in the name of the 'security gap', we are now facing a supervision gap. But it's better to have someone provisionally than nobody at all," Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in't Veld, one of the critics of the agreement, told this website.

As to the secrecy surrounding the interim appointment, Ms in't Veld said this was a wrong approach. "We don't want someone in the secret service, we need transparency, to be able to ask questions. It doesn't have to be a terrorism fighter, the job of this person is to oversee the implementation of the agreement. He or she should be a data protection specialist," she explained.

The EU commission points to the fact that the final appointment will be the result of an open contest, but does not exclude that the interim person keeps the job permanently.

A spokesperson for the US government said that Washington is "working very closely with the Eu to implement all aspects of the agreement, including the role of the EU-appointed monitor."

'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.

Opinion

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