Saturday, 28 November 2009

Mainstream media and EU-USA SWIFT agreement

Have civil society and blogging communities put the EU-US SWIFT agreement on the pages of the mainstream media, or is it the other way around?

Without possessing the philosopher’s stone on that question, I am able to report that at least some mainstream media do report on the problems associated with the “free flow” of Europeans’ financial data to the US intelligence community.

Do the results of my haphazard searches add to my confidence in mainstream media?

In the news

Is the signing of the SWIFT agreement just a formality? Not if you believe the AFP report: Austria, Germany blocking EU-US data deal: officials (27 November 2009). According to the report, Austria and Germany were still blocking the accord on Friday. Discussions were expected during the weekend, but it looks like the choice is about the duration of the agreement: six, nine or twelve months.

Europolitics, Brian Beary: Parliament pushes to delay SWIFT bank records agreement (27 November 2009). The European Parliament, in a letter by EP president Jerzy Buzek, has made a last minute appeal to the Swedish EU Council presidency to pull the agreement off the agenda. The EP wants to be fully involved under the Lisbon Treaty, which enters into force on 1 December 2009.

Spiegel Online, Hans-Jürgen Schlamp: Spying on Terrorist Cash Flows ─ EU to Allow US Access to Bank Transaction Data (27 November 2009) says that it looks like the EU is going to agree to the controversial SWIFT deal, referring to massive US pressure. According to this report, both Germany and Austria have given in and the EU Council is expected to sign an agreement “politically divisive and of dubious legality”.

Deutsche Welle: Datenschutz – Erlaubt Europa US-Konto-Spionage? (27 November 2009) presents the member state governments railroading the EU-US agreement while bypassing the European Parliament.

EUobserver, Valentina Pop: MEPs flex legal muscles over police reforms ahead of new treaty (25 November 2009) noted that an initiative by the Green group to thwart the EU-US bank data transfer deal fell through, and member states’ ministers were likely to adopt the SWIFT banking agreement on Monday. According to diplomatic sources, the prospect of having to start from scratch was incentive enough for the member states to adopt the deal on Monday.

Baltic Review, by eurotopics: Brussels too soft on the US (26 November 2009) publishes an opinion by Die Presse: The SWIFT deal is a further example of Washington not taking the EU seriously.

Tagesschau: Länder stemmen sich gegen SWIFT-Abkommen (27 November 2009) notes that the Bundesrat (where the Länder are represented) has demanded better data protection, but that the resolution is not legally binding on the German federal government. German politicians and the banking sector have criticised the low data protection standards. The German data protection supervisor Peter Schaar had criticised the SWIFT deal as a massive breach of fundamental rights, and signing the agreement would lead to would lead to legal challenges in the German federal constitutional court and the European Court of Justice. Schaar could not see the agreement as constitutional. Politically it was still unclear if Germany with abstain or vote against on Monday, although CDU spokesman Hans-Peter Uhl considered an agreement necessary in the fight against terrorism.

Heise Online, Stefan Krempl: Bundesrat warnt vor Wirtschaftsspionage durch SWIFT-Abkommen (28 November 2008) is quality reporting with useful links, i.a. to the decision by the Bundesrat (Drucksache 788/09; 27 November 2009), which details the concerns of the German Länder.

Romandie News has published an AFP bulletin: Terrorisme : les Européens divisés sur l’accès aux données bancaires (27 November 2009).

There are a number of newspaper articles in German quality media such as Die Zeit, Die Welt and others (but I only have one life).



During my somewhat random search, I have noticed that there has been serious and continuing discussion about the SWIFT agreement issues in German(y).

By the way, to cut a few historical corners, the Federal Republic of Germany was essentially an American creation, endowed with a Basic Law designed to respect parliamentary procedures and enshrining human rights. Right now it looks like the lessons have succeeded, with Germany just about the only place where fundamental rights are taken seriously, and the old US teachers in need of enlisting as pupils.

In addition to German media, there are also some fairly ‘non-national’ reports by news agencies or media with an EU focus or international readership, but traditional national media seem to have been fast asleep, unworried by their governments and politicians, too placid to dig on their own.

Naturally, I may be completely mistaken, having missed journalistic feats in languages unknown by me (and unrepresented in my web searches), but this is my first impression. Pray, tell me that I’m wrong.

Are social media, such as blogs, responsible for this decline, too?

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Do you find EUSSR myths fascinating? Are we EU citizens worth a better European Union? Educate yourself! There are already 487 Euroblogs aggregated on multilingual You can access all the posts or concentrate on the editors’ choice. On most of the blogs you can comment and discuss our common European future.