A new SWIFT agreement under negotiation between EU and USA

By EDRi · September 9, 2009

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Deutsch: [Verhandlungen über ein neues SWIFT-Abkommen zwischen EU und USA | http://www.unwatched.org/node/1511]

On 1 September 2009, the Civil Liberties Committee of the European
Parliament (LIBE) held a hearing on the renewal of the agreement which is
now under negotiations between the EU and the USA on data transfers via the
SWIFT financial data network.

LIBE members have shown concern about the legal basis for the agreement and
about that fact that the European Parliament has been kept out of the
negotiations, and are asking to be involved in the drafting of the

SWIFT case started in 2006 when it came out that US administrative
authorities were accessing data held on European citizens on the SWIFT
financial network based in Belgium without the knowledge of the European
authorities. Under the pressure of European Parliament and some Member
States, measures were taken to ensure some privacy guarantees and the USA
had to ensure that the collected data was used solely for anti-terrorist

The new agreement under discussion follows a change in the architectural
structure of SWIFT which, according to head of SWIFT Lázaro Campos, “is a
key factor in the security of our clients”. The system is to have a storage
centre for the European data in Switzerland.

The change of structure was encouraged by Peter Hustinx, the European Data
Protection Supervisor who believes such a change would mean that the data
would be stored in Europe. However, he expressed his concern regarding the
necessity and proportionality of and interim agreement with the USA and
called for the European data to be placed under the European data
protections regulations.

During the hearing on Monday, Gilles de Kerchove, the European
anti-terrorism coordinator, said that the Terrorist Finance Tracking
Program, which is based on the SWIFT network, “is a very precious instrument
in Europe too. It is of benefit to our Member States”. Also, according to
Jonathan Faull, European Commission DG Justice director-general, an
agreement is necessary “so that SWIFT can operate in a legal framework. A
number of negotiating criteria have therefore been proposed to reach a
temporary accord, which will apply until a definitive agreement comes in
under the Lisbon Treaty”.

Several MEPs expressed their concerns related to the interim agreement
especially regarding the lack of involvement of the European parliament and
asked for the details on the SWIFT case to be made public. Austrian MEP
Ernst Strasser considers that the European data should be processed
according to European standards. In his opinion companies and citizens must
have legal certainty. “It is important to conclude an agreement quickly,
involving the European Parliament closely, then to renegotiate with a new
mandate after Lisbon” he concluded.

European Parliament agenda (2.09.2009)

SWIFT: European bank data transfers must comply with European standards, say
MEPs (3.09.2009)

European Parliament: MEPs voice concerns over SWIFT payment agreement
between EU and the US (4.09.2009)

EDRi-gram: EU wants to share more bank details with the US authorities