BRUSSELS – The SWIFT agreement (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), an EU-US deal on the transfer of European Union citizens banking data to United States investigators, will not attain the necessary votes to pass in the European Parliament at its plenary session on February 10th. The conservative majority, as well as the Green and Social Democrat factions in Parliament have already declared their opposition to the deal.
Members of the European Parliament have been fuming about this issue since the European Council on November 30th 2009 framed an interim agreement with the United States, without allowing the European Parliament to vote on it.
The European Parliament argued that European Union ministers had gone behind its back in rushing to conclude the deal before the Lisbon Treaty entered into force on December 1st 2009, after which MEPs would gain greater powers in this area of legislation.
European political groups, especially the Liberal faction and the German political parties have repeatedly criticised the agreement arguing that it is not only a restraint on European sovereignty but a massive intrusion into every single European citizen’s privacy.
Members of Parliament have said that it must be ensured that data protection is guaranteed and that the necessary deadlines are met as well as the right to redress and the possibility to go to court and stressing that citizens must be protected from the arbitrary nature of state intervention.
European Â Parliament rapporteur Jeanin Hennis-Plasschaert, said that "there are some safe guards, but legal protection is lacking and we have a problem there." Others said that this agreement has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
The interim agreement is due to come into force today February 1st and will last for nine months, after which a permanent agreement will be required, with parliamentary input. Even if the Parliament will reject the interim agreement with the United States the agreement will still be provisional and the United States investigators would be permitted to gain access to European Union bank data.
The Civil Liberties Committee will vote on February 4th on the SWIFT deal. The coming ten days before the European Parliament plenary vote will be decisive not only for privacy protection for European citizens in the fight against terror, but also for transatlantic relations in this field and for the role of the European Parliament with its new power under the Lisbon Treaty.