Brussels: Europe agreed on Thursday to allow
the United States to tap into banking data for terrorism
investigations after securing safeguards to protect the
privacy of European citizens.
The United States will again have access to the
banking information from August 1 after European MPs voted
484-109 in favour of a new five-year deal that was signed by
Brussels and Washington last week.
The new agreement is a victory for the parliament,
which used powers it gained under the European Union`s Lisbon
Treaty to block an initial deal in February, barring
Washington from seeing the bank data since then.
European home affairs commissioner Cecilia
Maelstrom, who negotiated the new deal, said a lack of
agreement "could have had negative repercussions for EU-US
cooperation in the security area and more broadly."
Michael Dodman, the charge d`affaires of the US
mission to the EU, said last week that the lack of an
agreement had created a "security gap" and that the programme
was "very important to the security of the US and Europe."
European lawmakers dropped their opposition to the
programme after the EU and the US agreed on a set of measures
to prevent intrusions into the privacy of Europeans.
"The agreement caters for both security and privacy
concerns," said Alexander Alvaro, a German Liberal European
"It will ensure that terrorist financing can be
traced back to its sources but it will not affect day-to-day
bank transfers of EU citizens," he said.
The system was introduced in the wake of the
attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States to help
tackle the financing of terrorism.
The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme allowed US
access to information from the interbank money transfer system
SWIFT, which is based in Brussels.
European lawmakers` main concern was that personal
information, including data from electronic bank payments,
would be used by US authorities, held for too long and handed
on to other governments.
US Vice President Joe Biden sought to ease European
concerns during a trip to Europe in May, saying "Europeans and
Americans alike have valued greatly the privacy of our
Under the new deal, Europol, the European police
organisation, will check the validity of US requests.
The United States also agreed to allow the presence
of a EU official in Washington who will be able to monitor the
use of banking data of EU citizens by US authorities.