Extracts from the debate on the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), plenary session of the EP
Type: Institutional activity
End production: 16/09/2009
Members of the EP are challenging the proposed agreement between the EU and the United States on the transfer of bank data via the SWIFT network. A bone of contention is the choice of legal base by the EU governments. Members of the EP are demanding to be involved in the drafting of the agreement. A resolution was voted on 16 September 2009.
The question of SWIFT first arose in 2006 when the media revealed that the US administration was accessing data held by the Belgium-based financial network SWIFT on European citizens without their knowledge. Following pressure by the European Parliament, guarantees regarding privacy were given to ensure that the data collected was used purely for anti-terrorist purposes. In July 2009, media articles appeared saying that a new agreement was to be negotiated following a change in the structure of the SWIFT company, which is building a new storage centre for its European data in Switzerland.
Only the original language version is authentic and it prevails in the event of its differing from the translated versions.
|| Exterior view of the European Parliament in Strasbourg
|| Soundbite by Beatrice Ask, Swedish Minister for Justice and President in office of the Council, (in SWEDISH): data should be kept in a safe way; all access to those data should be logged; all searches in the TFTP (Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme) database would be restricted and only appointed individuals will be able to do that or cases where there is well founded suspicion or link to a terrorist activity; the retention periods for data will be limited and data will be expunged from the data base at the latest 5 years after the data has been initially entered; we can not that the TFTP can only be used when it comes to terrorist crimes and financing of these crimes.
|| Soundbite by Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Justice, Freedom and Security, (in FRENCH): if the US authorities are to be able to continue to analyse data on this inter-European transactions based in The Netherlands, then an interim agreement between the US and the EU is essential; the inclusion in this agreement of all the guarantees to safeguard the fundamental rights of our citizens is essential, for example the protection of personal data, this is an absolute precondition.
As the Minister said, this is an interim agreement and the period of duration will be a maximum of 12 month; this is to permit the immediate re-negotiation once the Lisbon treaty enters into force, with a full involvement of the EP.
We are very happy to be able to prepare this agreement that will be a durable one, asking for the principle of reciprocity to be respected by the US authorities; fighting terrorism is of our interest and the reciprocity principle shall be fully applied.
|| Soundbite by Ernst Strasser, Member of the EP, (in GERMAN): there are few main criteria when it comes to the implementation of such an agreement; 1st, we need a balance between the safety of our citizens on the one hand, and protection of civil rights on the other hand; 2nd, we need a legal certainty for companies concerned and our citizens; 3rd, we very much welcome the co-decision powers of the EP and we welcome this intention of adopting an interim agreement.
|| Soundbite by Claude Moraes, Member of the EP, (in ENGLISH): if US legal standards continue to apply on EU soil for the processing of EU data, how can we guarantee respect for EU standards regarding procedural rights and the protection of personal data? to which judge can an EU citizen or an EU enterprise go in the case of criminal prosecution?
|| Soundbite by Sophia in 't Veld, Member of the EP, (in DUTCH): authorities in Europe and in the US want to know what we are doing in our private life but we are not allowed to know what the Council is doing!; surely that is wrong; fighting terrorism seems to be an area where there is very little respect for the citizens and parliamentary democracy as a whole. (2 shots)
|| Cutaways (5 shots)