Brussels, 11 February 2010
The European Parliament votes against the EU-US provisional agreement on transfer of bank data for counter-terrorism purposes: Commission reaction
The Commission respects the decision taken by the European Parliament today to reject the Interim "SWIFT" (Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme - TFTP) Agreement. The Commission regrets the fact that the highly valuable information that this instrument would have provided for the fight against terrorism will not be available. The Commission will need to explore with the United States Treasury Department the extent to which there is scope to negotiate a long term EU-US TFTP agreement.
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström stated: "I remain convinced that the programme enhances the security of our citizens: it would be the role of the Commission to make sure that all the relevant safeguards for EU citizens' privacy and data protection are duly included in any possible future agreement. In spite of this set back, I hope we will be able to agree a text in the near future that will give us greater security, more data protection and a useful cooperation tool with US authorities.
Following today's vote in the European Parliament, we will have now to reflect together with our US partners on the possible negotiation of a new agreement".
My hope is to achieve a new agreement with very ambitious safeguards for privacy and data protection. This way I believe we can build trust in the system used for tracking terrorist finances, and gain wide support for it on both sides of the Atlantic. We need to cooperate with our US partners in order to fight terrorism effectively, and enhance security for our citizens. This must be done – and can be done – while ensuring the protection of civil liberties and fundamental rights."
Viviane Reding, the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and Vice-President of the European Commission, said: "The European Parliament has spoken. The European Commission, which is accountable to the European Parliament, needs to respect this. I believe that the full involvement of national data protection authorities in the negotiations of the long-term SWIFT agreement will give citizens further assurances about the proportionality and the correct implementation of the agreement particularly with regard to its data protection safeguards.
EU-US relations are critical of the freedom and security of our citizens. This is why we will work with our US partners to ensure that the new SWIFT agreement will at the end be able to receive the consent of the European Parliament.
At the same time, we will be preparing the recommendation for authorising the negotiation of a future EU-US data protection and information sharing agreement. Such a data protection agreement is in many ways the other side of the coin. It can make sure that the data of EU and US citizens will be safe when transferred between America and Europe. I intend to make quickly progress on such a data protection agreement."