EU and US sign the SWIFT Agreement for US TFTP Programme

The European Union and the United States of America signed on June 28th 2010 an EU-US agreement on the processing and transfer of financial messaging data (the so-called SWIFT Agreement) for purposes of the US Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP). This signature follows the adoption by the Council of a decision plus accompanying declarations.

The EU-US Agreement on the processing and transfer of financial messaging data, SWIFT Agreement, was signed in Brussels by the Spanish Minister for Home Affairs, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, on behalf of the European Union, and the United States Embassy's Economic Officer to the EU, Michael Dodman, in the presence of the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom.

The agreement will now be transmitted to the European Parliament which needs to give its consent by a majority of its members before it enter into force. The next possibility for the European Parliament to vote on the agreement is during the plenary session from 5-8 July 2010.

The SWIFT Agreement

The agreement is meant to allow the US Department of the Treasury to receive financial messaging data stored in the EU in order to allow targeted searches for counter-terrorism investigations, while ensuring an adequate level of data protection. Once approved, the agreement will run for five years. It will automatically extend for subsequent periods of one year unless one of the parties notifies the other of its intention not to extend the agreement.

Under the US Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP), the US Department of the Treasury seeks to identify, track and pursue suspected terrorists and their providers of finance. It was set up shortly after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Relevant results of the US analysis have been shared with EU member states and have contributed to effective investigation and prevention of terrorist attacks, including attacks on EU citizens.

The agreement became possible after the Member States agreed to included some of the Parliament's demands about SWIFT Agreement, such as selecting data regarding European citizens before transferring it to the USA, something which did not occur before, with information being transferred without being filtered.

Europe has five years to set up its own system for ensuring that individual freedoms and privacy are respected; in the meantime, European officials will control the extraction of data by the United States from the servers of the SWIFT international banking consortium.

One of the key elements of the agreement is the supervision of requests for information by the USA; this will be carried out by the European Police Office, Europol, which will filter and supervise data transfers to ensure that they comply with the required guarantees.