3rd Mar 2024

US links EU security partnership to bank data deal

  • US national security advisor James Jones (l) and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (m) (Photo: Munich Security Conference/Kai Moerk)

US national security advisor James Jones on Saturday (6 February) 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.

"It has become fashionable in some quarters to suggest that the United States has somehow neglected the trans-Atlantic partnership. But ...Europe today is our indispensable partner," Mr Jones said at the Munich security conference, a yearly forum for high-level officials to air their views on international security and defence matters.

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He indicated that there were some potential glitches in the relationship. He mentioned a crucial vote due in the European Parliament this Thursday (11 February), which could derail an existing agreement allowing the US to track intra-European banking transactions in the search for terrorism funding.

"This programme has safeguards. It protects privacy. It has prevented terrorist attacks and saved lives, including here in Europe. And with the European Parliament's support for sustaining this important agreement, the United States looks forward to further co-operation in this area with our European partners to protect our citizens on both sides of the ocean though an agreement called the Terrorist Finance Tracking programme," Mr Jones said.

His public calls come after last week's vote in a key EU parliamentary committee for the deal to be scrapped because of what MEPs consider insufficient data protection safeguards and because of an institutional quarrel with member states, who negotiated the agreement.

US foreign policy chief Hillary Clinton has held phone conversations with both the European Parliament's president Jerzy Buzek and her EU counterpart Catherine Ashton on the matter.

Ms Clinton also wrote a letter to Mr Buzek together with US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, in which they "convey their hope" that the Thursday vote will be positive, parliament sources told EUobserver.

The US officials said they supported the view of the parliament in its discussion with the council of ministers, that EU states should disclose all the relevant information to the legislature relating to negotiations for a final agreement on bank data.

EU ambassadors in Brussels are set to hold a special meeting on the matter on Monday (8 February). If no concessions were made from the side of the council, parliament sources say, the agreement is likely to be voted down on Thursday.

Spanish bonanza

The state of EU-US relations hit the headlines last week when President Barack Obama indicated he would not attend a bilateral summit due to take place in Madrid in May.

The US State Department said that Mr Obama's decision, widely portrayed as a snub, was partly due to institutional confusion caused by the EU's new Lisbon Treaty.

Spanish foreign minister Angel Miguel Moratinos, also present at the Munich gathering, praised the transatlantic relationship. "The new Europe still needs the US, and the US will always have in Europe its most reliable and capable partner," he said.

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