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Strasbourg, 8 July 2010

Speaking points of Commissioner Malmström on the Agreement between the EU and the USA on the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP)

I am very happy about the large consensus that has been established between the main political groups of the European Parliament in favour of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme agreement negotiated between the European Commission and the United States.

The vast majority of MEPs have given their consent to the agreement, recognising that this text introduces the appropriate safeguards to accommodate legitimate concerns about both security and privacy and respect of fundamental rights.

The agreement will now enter into force as from 1st August, offering European citizens a twofold guarantee: first, complete transparency as far as access and use of data are concerned; and, second, access to appropriate tools and redress procedures to ensure that privacy is protected. And, of course, it will meet its initial purpose: to retain what has proven to be a key instrument in the fight against terrorism.

During my very first week as Commissioner for home affairs the Interim agreement on TFTP was rejected by the Parliament, which felt it did not protect EU citizens’ privacy sufficiently.

That very same day I made a clear commitment to the European Parliament and to the EU citizens to find a solution to this difficult situation. So it became one of my top priorities to negotiate a new agreement that both the EU institutions and the US could agree on.

I kept the commitment and I delivered on it. Today's vote shows the progress made thanks to the efforts of all the people involved in the negotiations both on the EU and the US side.

This has not been an easy task and has represented a test case for EU-US cooperation in the Lisbon era. Failure to conclude the TFTP Agreement could have had negative repercussions for EU-US cooperation in the security area and more broadly.

Thanks to the frank and open attitude of both negotiating parties we avoided a potential setback and transformed this challenge into a success story that I am convinced sets a very important positive precedent in the transatlantic relationship.

When negotiating with our American counterparts I tried to explain the reasons why European citizens were so sensitive to every single aspect of the privacy safeguards. I reminded them that Europe has had a long and painful history with totalitarian regimes, where the collection and transfer of data were often intrusive tools to control citizens' lives and limit their freedom. That is why data protection and privacy are nowadays at the very core of the European citizens' fundamental rights.

At the same time, we have an obligation to protect our citizens. Just yesterday we remembered the fifth anniversary of the London bombing in 2005, where over 50 people were killed.

It is our duty to use all the tools at our disposal to prevent events like these from recurring and to fight terrorism in all its forms internationally. Our approach has to be firm and proportionate in order to protect EU citizens' privacy and ensure their security.

The agreement adopted today by the European Parliament is the proof that we can find appropriate safeguards to accommodate these legitimate concerns. This is a victory for all EU institutions and is a great success for both the European Union and the United States.

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