Friday, 27 November 2009

SWIFTly signed ─ Long term damage? (Updated)

The “war on terror” has been a sorry saga of expediency overriding truth and the rule of law. Have the governments of the EU member states learnt anything? Perhaps not, if we look at the Council agenda for Monday.



Brussels Blogger has sounded the alarm regarding the plan of EU member state governments to sign an agreement with the US administration on the massive transfer of financial data; in SWIFT – EU to grant USA nearly unlimited access to all EU banking data (26 November 2009) and 5 reasons why the SWIFT deal is very bad for Europe (27 November 2009).


Julien Frisch has taken up the issue in EU to hand all banking details of Europeans to the US. A rapidly growing Facebook group demands that the deal is stopped.

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JHA Council


On the provisional agenda of the EU Council (Justice and Home Affairs) 30 November 2009, prepared under the Swedish EU Council presidency, is the so called SWIFT agreement:

“Council Decision authorising the signing of an Agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of Financial Messaging Data for purposes of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme
- Adoption”



When have the texts been published for open debate? Where are the results of the public deliberations? What have the European Parliament and the national parliaments said?

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Openness and tranparency?



Who still remembers the promising tones of the Swedish work programme for the EU Council presidency about openness, transparency and accessibility?

“Europe is facing two overriding challenges: the global economic crisis and efforts to halt climate change. During its Presidency, Sweden will work hard to make progress on these and other important issues. The day-to-day EU work must be open, effective and results-oriented: open through transparency and accessibility, effective by moving these issues forward and results-oriented by taking action so that objectives are fulfilled and unexpected events are dealt with.” (Page 11)


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Democratic procedures and rule of law


The fight against terrorism and for the security of EU citizens is important, and it is beyond me to present an instant reasoned view on the necessity and proportionality of the privacy (data protection) breaches in the proposed SWIFT agreement, but signing such an agreement on the last day before the Lisbon Treaty enters into force is a sure-fire way for governments to cause distrust among EU citizens.

Taking the expedient course in the short term is often a guarantee of less credibility and more problems in the long term.


The EU Council is too limited and opaque to legitimise important decisions concerning fundamental rights.




Ralf Grahn



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Update 27 November 2009 about 14:40 EET



I have just read the EU Council’s Main topics for the coming fortnight, 30 November to 13 December 2009. Nowhere on the 15 pages is the SWIFT agreement mentioned. So much for openness, transparency and closeness to citizens.