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New EU-US negotiations on bank data transfers on the cards

24 March 2010, 23:42 CET
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The Commission today adopted a draft mandate for negotiating bank data transfers with the United States government under the Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme (TFTP). The Commission wants to complete an agreement this summer to limit gaps in security. Today's proposal would give the Commission a mandate to negotiate a strong level of protection of personal data. It would also commit it to keeping the European Parliament fully informed at all stages of negotiations.

Under the proposal of the Commission the draft mandate includes significant further data protection guarantees such as a strict counter terrorism purpose limitation, an absolute prohibition on transfers on bulk data to third countries (only leads can be transferred). It aims at a potential limitation of the amount of personal data that is transferred to US authorities.

"Terrorism remains among the main threats that EU security has to face and we need to put in place tools that are up to the task, allowing for effective international cooperation" said Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, responsible for Home Affairs. She added, "The programme we propose to sustain with this EU-US agreement on the transfer of financial messaging data proved its effectiveness in the past and I am confident that it will continue to do so, granting at the same time the highest possible level of protection for EU citizens' personal data, allowing them to have right to administrative and judicial redress, ensuring greater monitoring thanks to a regular review process and making sure that requests for data must be approved by a judicial public authority. I will make sure that the European Parliament will be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the negotiation procedure and that the talks with our US counterparts will duly take into account the concerns and suggestions expressed by the European Parliament."

"Our role is to make sure that citizens' rights are respected and protected at all times," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. ''While drafting the mandate for the new agreement, Cecilia and I took account of the most essential concerns of the European Parliament, which were expressed last September, notably with regard to the right of privacy and the right to effective and non-discriminatory administrative and judicial redress. The future agreement would ensure that the Commission will regularly report to the European Parliament, thereby ensuring democratic control. Last, but not least, the future agreement would explicitly provide US reciprocity should the EU set up its own Terrorist-Financing Tracking Programme. I believe that on this basis, the European Union can go with confidence in a new round of negotiations with our US partners."

In line with EU law, the mandate proposes a general maximum data retention period of 5 years. The EU will have the right to terminate the Agreement in the event of breach of any of the data protection safeguards.

At the JHA Council of 25 February 2010 there was general agreement among Member States that there is a pressing need to put in place a new EU-US TFTP Agreement to maintain this valuable counter terrorism programme, after the refusal of the European Parliament to consent for the TFTP Interim Agreement on 11 February.

Consequent to the European Parliament vote, a letter signed by the President of the Council was delivered to the US Secretary of State on 22 February stating that as a consequence of the Parliament's Resolution the EU cannot become a party to the Interim Agreement and terminating the provisional application of the Agreement.

Terrorism: agreement on bank data 
transfers with US - briefing

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