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Europe demands reciprocal access to US bank account data in Swift row

26 March 2010  |  10869 views  |  0 EU flag

The European Commission is considering setting up a system to track terrorist financing which would require the US to hand over citizen bank transaction data. The move comes as the EC prepares to reopen negotiations with the US on access to EU bank accounts after previous arrangements were torpedoed by the European Parliament.

European Union ministers in November agreed an interim nine-month deal to continue letting US anti-terror investigators access details of bank transfers conducted over Swift.

However, the deal was vetoed by European parliamentarians angered at the lack of consultation and concerned over privacy provisions.

Now, the EC's new commissioner for home affairs, Cecilia Malmström, is ready to renew talks and says she will press for stronger privacy safeguards.

The EC's draft mandate includes "significant further data protection guarantees" such as a strict counter terrorism purpose limitation, an absolute prohibition on transfers on bulk data to third countries.

In addition, in line with EU law, the mandate proposes a general maximum data retention period of 5 years and the Union will have the right to terminate the agreement if any data protection safeguards are breached.

Parliament will also be kept better informed says Malmström: "I will make sure that the European Parliament will be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the negotiation procedure and that the talks with our US counterparts will duly take into account the concerns and suggestions expressed by the European Parliament."

The EC also says that any future agreement should be reciprocal, so that the US would have to provide similar banking data if the EU decides to set up its own programme for tracking funds supporting terror groups.

Viviane Reding, commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship says "the future agreement would explicitly provide US reciprocity should the EU set up its own Terrorist-Financing Tracking Programme. I believe that on this basis, the European Union can go with confidence in a new round of negotiations with our US partners."

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