Thursday

17th Aug 2017

MEPs demand explanation on US plan to monitor all money transfers

  • The land of the free is has seen a huge build up of security measures since the 9/11 attack (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The EU commission and MEPs have requested clarifications from Washington on reported plans to expand an anti-terrorism programme targeting financial transactions - a move that would render void the long-debated "Swift agreement" enacted in August.

"We urgently seek clarifications from the US if these plans are an infringemet of the Swift agreement and the EU commission promised to demand further information on it," Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in't Veld told this website on Monday evening (27 September) after a closed-door meeting with commission officials.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Earlier that day, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration was looking into expanding existing anti-terrorism programs targetting bank transfers to the extent that a long-debated agreement with the EU, dubbed the "Swift agreement," would no longer be valid.

Under current rules, US officials can request European data relevant to a specific terrorist investigation from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift). The request needs to be approved by the EU's police co-operation unit, Europol, and has to meet certain requirements.

But if the new plans go into effect, the Washington Post said: "transactions between European and US banks would be captured regardless of whether there is a substantiated need."

Responding to the news, Ms in't Veld said: "We are all getting a bit tired of being taken by surprise all the time. The US is our friend and ally, so we shouldn't be treated this way."

Set up in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, the "Terorrism Finance Tracking Program" was initially a covert operation, tapping Swift data without the Europeans knowing about it. It was only when the story broke, in 2006, that Washington engaged in basic negotiations with the EU, while keeping the programme up and running.

Using its new powers, acquired when the Lisbon Treaty came into force, the European Parliament in February struck down the interim agreement, interrupting the data flow for half a year. A final agreement was subsequently negotiated by the EU commission, with extra privacy and oversight provisions, and came into force on 1 August.

"We see so many data transfers - passenger name records (PNR), Swift data, credit card information connected to the travel fee - that we are wondering where all this ends," the Dutch MEP said.

Ms in't Veld is responsible for drafting the Parliament's position on the so-called PNR agreement, which, like the Swift programme, was put into place after the 2001 terrorist attacks and which requires all airlines who fly to or over the US to deliver personal data on their passengers to the American authorities.

The PNR agreement was already struck down once by the European Court of Justice for having the wrong legal basis and the current version is pending approval by the EU legislature.

A compromise solution designed to discourage the parliament form using its "nuclear option" veto is currently being prepared by the EU commission with extra data protection provisions in place. The EU executive earlier this month presented its guiding principles for new negotiations with Washington, to be approved by interior ministers in October. The talks could start by the end of this year.

"I am not blaming the US for asking us for so much data. They test where the limits are and unless the EU draws some lines, they will take as much as they can," Ms in't Veld said.

Focus

EU to tighten privacy rules on air passenger data

The EU commission wants to strengthen privacy rules for sharing personal data of air travellers to the US, Australia and Canada and limit the use of this data strictly to fighting terrorism and serious organised crime.

Sighs of relief as EU parliament approves 'Swift' deal

Top EU and US officials have breathed a collective sigh of relief after the European Parliament approved a new "Swift" deal on terrorism and bank data, closing a six-month "security gap" after it struck down an initial agreement in February.

Opinion

Tough demands from European Parliament included in bank data deal with US

The new EU agreement allowing bank data to be transferred to the US for anti-terrorism purposes fulfills the European Parliament's tough demands for data protection, EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom writes, urging MEPs to vote in favour of the deal on Thursday.

News in Brief

  1. Russian power most feared in Europe
  2. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  3. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  4. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  5. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending
  6. Low support for Norway's labour party ahead of elections
  7. Slovakia's future is with core EU, says PM
  8. Italy relieved as migration drops to lowest level since 2014

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  3. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  6. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  8. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  9. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  10. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  11. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  12. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey