EU countries oppose draft US data deal
(BRUSSELS) - A group of European Union nations have objected to a planned EU accord allowing the United States to use data about European citizens in anti-terror investigations, diplomats said Thursday.
The states, including Austria, France, Finland and Germany, reject a draft plan by the EU's Swedish presidency to continue to give Washington access to data from the interbank transfer service SWIFT.
"Several other nations, among them Greece and the Netherlands, are hesitant about giving their green light," one diplomat said, on condition of anonymity.
The primary concern is that personal information, possibly including data from electronic bank payments within the 27 EU nations, could be transferred to US authorities and handed on the other governments.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), based near Brussels, deals with trillions of dollars in global transactions daily between nearly 8,000 financial institutions in 200-plus countries.
In a major move, SWIFT is planning to relocate its database and servers from the United States to the Netherlands. Another network is located in Switzerland. The move was meant to happen last month, but did not.
The change would leave the United States only with personal data on Americans, and reliant on EU nations and laws for access to the information.
So the EU has been trying to draw up a temporary agreement and had wanted it finalised for a meeting of interior ministers in Brussels on November 30.
The ministers are "set to sign away EU citizens' legal and data protection rights in a negotiated agreement that will allow US security authorities to access information on bank transfers," said Greens member of the European parliament Jan-Philipp Albrecht.
"Scandalously, the planned agreement openly provides for further transfer of information to third parties and states, when it should be expressly prohibiting the forwarding of such sensitive data," he said in a statement.
In 2006, SWIFT admitted that it had provided US authorities with some personal data in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001 for the purpose of fighting extremists but insisted it had done its utmost to protect privacy.
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