MEPs clash with Commission over new EU-US Swift data deal

MEPs clash with Commission over new EU-US Swift data deal

European parliamentarians are demanding limitations on bank data transfers to the US and the right of legal redress for EU citizens under a new deal hatched between Brussels and US authorities over Swift data sharing arrangements.

The demands were made in a debate on the key points of a new draft accord on transfers of bank data to the United States for anti-terrorism purposes.

The new draft mandate, access to which is limited although MEPs have been allowed to see it, will be considered by the Council on 23 April, to enable talks with the US to begin. The Commission wants to have an agreement signed by the end of June.

A previous provisional agreement between the EC and the US was rejected by MEPs in a vote in February.

Details of the new deal, which was expected to address MEP's concerns over consumer privacy, were discussed at a meeting of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee late last month.

"There is still talk, in these guidelines, of bulk data transfers", complained Dutch MEP Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. "Even with this new mandate, the idea would be to transfer 90 million pieces of data each month."

Another Dutch representative, Sophie In't Veld complained: "The United States is looking for a needle and we're sending them the entire haystack. The Koreans, Indians and Saudis will be asking us for data too, so let's not create a precedent."

Others present expressed concern at the failure to provide reciprocal access to US data, and called on the Commission to negotiate a deal under which Swift records were first dissected for suspect transactions by EU agencies before transfer to the US.

The question whether EU citizens would have a right of appeal to the American authorities if their personal data were misused was also discussed. "There too, we'd like to have more detail", said Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil. "Would a European citizen have the same rights in the United States as an American citizen?"

Returning to the main sticking point, he added: "We must avoid bulk data transfers from the start. There is a clear political will on this matter. For us, it's a key point."

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