The dispute over the disclosure of data from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) to US authorities has been resolved on june 28 marking a further success while Germany holds the presidency of the EU. The Federal Ministry of Finance releases the following statement:
Within the framework of the German presidency of the Council of the European Union, the country’s Federal Ministry of Finance has been intensively involved in the negotiations between the European Commission and the US Treasury (UST) regarding the use of SWIFT data in full compliance with data protection laws. During the talks it was possible to secure a set of commitments, referred to as representations, from the UST that take account of the need for effective measures to combat terrorism, including terrorism financing, and comply with European data protection laws as well as ensure the smooth operation of financial payments.
The Member States of the European Union approved the agreement at yesterday's Council meeting. Peer Steinbrück, the Federal Minister of Finance, and Franco Frattini, the Vice President of the European Commission, have jointly signed an exchange of letters on this matter to accompany the representations.
The outcome means that the European side has been largely successful in achieving its objectives. In future, an “eminent European” will be appointed by the European Commission in consultation with the UST. This person will carry out independent, public oversight to ensure the commitments are met.
In addition, the following commitments were also secured:
What this solution means in particular is legal certainty for SWIFT and international financial transactions, while also ensuring transparency. The resolution marks a further success in the work of the Germany presidency of the EU.
In June 2006, it came to light that various US authorities have requested financial transaction data from SWIFT since the terrorist attacks of September 11. SWIFT released this data upon request so that the US authorities could evaluate it for counter terrorism purposes. The European Data-Protection Supervisor considers this a breach of European data protection laws.
SWIFT – which has the legal form of a Belgian cooperative society and is headquartered in La Hulpe (Belgium) – operates a telecommunication network handling the automated exchange of financial transaction messages. SWIFT keeps two operating centres that work in parallel in Europe and the USA where all data sets are mirrored. Today, more than 8,000 users and 200 countries are connected to the SWIFT network worldwide.