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article imageEU Parliament rejects data-sharing agreement with the U.S.

By Chris Dade     Feb 11, 2010 in World
Appeals by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner failed to persuade European MPs to endorse a deal that would allow U.S. authorities continued access to information held by a Brussels-based money transfer system.
As Digital Journal reported last week since the September 11 attacks in the U.S. in 2001 authorities in Washington have seemingly had unrestricted access to information held by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).
In fact it was not known until five years after the 2001 attacks that the U.S. was indeed accessing such information, which it says it needs to help identify those involved in financing international terrorism.
But concerns over the protection of personal data led the civil liberties committee in the European Parliament to recommend that the parliament's MPs reject a deal that would allow the arrangement to continue on a temporary basis.
And today, by 378 votes to 196, with 31 abstentions, the European Parliament followed the recommendation of its own committee.
The Wall Street Journal notes that some conservative members of the Parliament, which was utilizing the new powers regarding international treaties bestowed on it by the Treaty of Lisbon, attempted to delay the vote. They hoped to reach a compromise on an agreement that was only intended to last for nine months while a more comprehensive one was being created.
With Bloomberg reporting that there are also differences between the EU and the U.S. over the introduction of body scanners at airports, it quotes the the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels as saying that the vote in the Parliament is a disruption to "an important counter-terrorism program”.
Speaking after the vote in Strasbourg, France by representatives of 27 nations the President of the European Parliament, former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, explained:The majority view in the European Parliament is that the correct balance between security, on the one hand, and the protection of civil liberties and fundamental rights, on the other, has not been achieved. These are difficult, complex and sensitive matters
Meanwhile Simon Busuttil, a conservative member of the Parliament from Malta, criticized the rejection of the agreement.
According to the IDG News Service he observed:We deeply regret that the European Parliament has rejected the interim agreement on SWIFT because we firmly believe that this instrument is extremely important for detecting terrorist activities and ensuring the safety of our citizens
IDG adds that no agreement is in place whereby U.S. authorities are obliged to share banking data for U.S. citizens with their counterparts in the EU.
However the Wall Street Journal confirms that Washington may still be able to obtain some of the banking information it requires through an agreement allowing it to do so via national governments within the EU.
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