Swift baulks at EU resolution on Russian expulsion

Swift baulks at EU resolution on Russian expulsion

Swift has given a strongly worded response to a European Parliament resolution calling on the EU to consider expelling Russia from the financial messaging network.

In a non-binding resolution on the precarious situation in Ukraine and how this affects relations between the EU and Russia, the parliament "calls for the EU to consider excluding Russia from...the Swift system".

In a defiant response, the messaging network says: "Under fundamental principles of European law, enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the singling out of Swift in this manner interferes disproportionately with Swift's fundamental right to conduct business and its right to property. It also constitutes discriminatory and unequal treatment.

"Explicitly mentioning Swift in a European Parliament resolution of this kind on such an international sensitive matter also creates immense damage to our company's reputation. Our mission remains to be a global and neutral service provider to the financial industry. The provision of financial messaging services to Russian entities is not affected by the current measures in force."

However, the parliamentarians could receive a sympathetic hearing from at least one EU state. According to reports, earlier this month the British government urged other EU nations to expel Russian banks from Swift, with prime minister David Cameron making the case to his fellow leaders.

Swift has been told to make similar restrictions in the past, cutting off Iran in 2012, when the European Council sought to choke off the supply of funds for the country's nuclear energy programme.

The exclusion of Russian banks from the Swift network would have wider-ranging repercussions, with serious consequences for international trade flows and transaction banking operations.

Attempts by Western powers to disrupt payments flows to Russian businesses through the credit card networks have already created big problems for Visa and MasterCard. Incensed by the interference, Russian president Putin responded with plans to build a competitive payment network and introduced a new law requiring the US card giants to deposit billions of dollars of collateral with the central bank.

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