Procedure : 2007/2503(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B6-0042/2007

Texts tabled :


Debates :

Votes :

PV 14/02/2007 - 5.8
CRE 14/02/2007 - 5.8
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


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7 February 2007
PE 385.015v01-00
to wind up the debate on statements by the Council and Commission
pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure, by
   Ewa Klamt, Mihael Brejc, Carlos Coelho and Alexander Radwan, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group
   Martine Roure and Pervenche Berès, on behalf of the PSE Group
   Sophia in 't Veld, Wolf Klinz, Alexander Alvaro, Margarita Starkevičiūtė and Sarah Ludford, on behalf of the ALDE Group
   Roberta Angelilli, Roberts Zīle, Eoin Ryan and Guntars Krasts, on behalf of the UEN Group
   Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group
   Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann and Giusto Catania, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group
on SWIFT, the PNR agreement and the transatlantic dialogue on these issues

European Parliament resolution on SWIFT, the PNR agreement and the transatlantic dialogue on these issues 

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the declarations of the Council and the Commission during the debate of 31 January 2007, following the oral question on SWIFT as well as the negotiations for a new EU-US PNR (passenger name record) agreement,

–  having regard to the reply by the European Central Bank to the question put to it, which raised the point that the ECB had failed to inform the central banks, and as a result the national banks, of the US practice of accessing data related to financial transactions generated by SWIFT,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Article 29 Working Party on the future PNR agreement and of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) as regards the role of the ECB in the SWIFT case,

–  having regard to Rule 103(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the sharing of data and information is a valuable tool in the international fight against terrorism and related crime,

B.  whereas businesses with operations on both sides of the Atlantic increasingly find themselves caught between the conflicting legal requirements of the US and EU jurisdictions,

C.  whereas the sharing of personal data must take place on a proper legal basis, linked to clear rules and conditions, and must be covered by adequate protection of the privacy and civil liberties of individual citizens,

D.  whereas the fight against terrorism and crime must have proper democratic legitimacy, meaning that data-sharing programmes must at all times be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and judicial review;


1.  Stresses that during the last few years several agreements prompted by US requirements and adopted without any involvement of the European Parliament, notably the agreements on PNR, SWIFT and the existence of the US Automated Targeting System (ATS), have led to a situation of legal uncertainty with regard to the necessary data protection guarantees for data sharing and transfer between the EU and the US for the purposes of ensuring public security and, in particular, preventing and fighting terrorism;

2.  Reaffirms that the solutions envisaged so far by the Council and the Commission as well as by private companies do not adequately protect the personal data of EU citizens (as also noted in the letter from Mr Schaar, Chair of the Article 29 Working Party, regarding the new interim PNR agreement), and that this could constitute to a violation of Community as well as national legislation, as in the SWIFT case (see the opinion of the Article 29 Working Party and the EDPS);

3.  Notes that in the fight against terrorism the US Congress has for some time asked the US administration to adopt more targeted measures that better ensure privacy and are subject to parliamentary and judicial control (as was demanded when Congress was made aware of the existence of the NSA programme of telephone tapping);

4.  Confirms its reservations that have recently been shared by the Congress as regards the method of profiling and data mining, which consists in accumulating in an indiscriminate manner larger and larger volumes of personal data, as in the case of the ATS used by the US administration;

5.  Welcomes the fact that the US administration has recently taken note of these reservations and that it will seek to improve the situation with the following steps:

   (a)the establishment of privacy officers and/or an independent privacy agency within the federal administration, who are to undertake privacy assessments of all initiatives that could potentially impinge on privacy;
   (b)setting up a mechanism to guarantee US citizens a right of appeal in the event of incorrect use of their data;

6.  Believes, however, that these improvements are insufficient as regards data protection for EU citizens and that it would be warmly welcomed if the 1974 Privacy Act could also apply to EU citizens on a reciprocity basis in order for them to have access to their data, including rectification and modification, as well as having access to a legal redress mechanism and to an independent data protection authority;

7.  Recalls its belief that such data protection guarantees would facilitate data sharing whilst ensuring protection of privacy, and that such transfers would in any case need to be based on one or more international agreements similar in structure to that of the EU/US agreement on judicial cooperation in criminal matters and extradition which is currently being examined by the US Congress;

8.  Believes that since such international agreements concern the fundamental rights of EU as well as US citizens, the European Parliament and the national parliaments of the Member States should be fully involved, as should the US Congress;

9.  Insists that in matters of data protection the agreements should strive to achieve a high level of protection as regards risks of abuse and should be supplemented with binding principles at EU level as regards the protection of data for security purposes (third pillar);

10.  Stresses the need for the adoption of a Framework Decision on the protection of personal data in the third pillar; draws attention to the fact that, in the opinion it adopted unanimously on 27 September 2006, it called for a comprehensive and ambitious scope which would provide for data protection rules also covering the exchange of personal data with third countries;

11.  Believes that it is necessary to define with the US a common and shared framework to safeguard the necessary guarantees that are needed in the special EU-US partnership in the fight against terrorism, which could also deal with all aspects concerning the free movement of persons between the EU and the US;

12.  Expects that this strategy of transatlantic partnership will be discussed at the next EU-US summit on 30 April 2007 and considers that, in this perspective, contacts should be strengthened between the European Parliament and Congress; requests that:

   (a)rapporteurs from the European Parliament be allowed to attend a hearing in the US Congress on themes that are of mutual interest (the EU-US agreement on judicial cooperation in criminal matters and extradition, ATS, SWIFT);
   (b)the Chairs of the competent Congress committees be invited with a view to the next transatlantic dialogue (Brussels-Berlin in mid-April 2007) and in any case before the next EU-US spring summit;

As regards the negotiation of the long-term PNR agreement

13.  Stresses that, in addition to the points already adopted by Parliament in September, a future long-term PNR agreement should be founded on the following principles:

   (a)evidence-based policy-making: a thorough evaluation must be carried out before a new agreement is concluded; the question of the effectiveness of the current agreement (and the previous one) should be addressed, as should the issue of the costs and competitiveness of European airline companies; the evaluation must address the implementation of the undertakings and the matter of PNR data in ATS;
   (b)transfers of PNR must be based on a clear purpose limitation principle;
   (c)justification and proportionality: it would seem that in practice, for law enforcement and security purposes, APIS data are more than sufficient; these data are already collected in Europe in accordance with Council Regulation (EEC) 2299/89, and may therefore be exchanged with the US under a comparable regime; behaviour data in the PNR seem to be of limited use, as they cannot be identified if not linked to APIS; the justification for the general transfer of PNR data is therefore not satisfactory;
   (d)a future agreement must be based on an adequacy finding with regard to the protection of personal data; from the European side, it is clear that rules for the protection of personal data in the third pillar are urgently needed, as well as global standards covering all categories of personal data;
   (e)there must be a regular evaluation of the programme's data protection adequacy and effectiveness, involving the EP and, if possible, the US Congress; an annual evaluation must be part of any future agreement; the evaluation report must be made public, and must be submitted to the European Parliament;
   (f)alternative solutions, such as the Electronic Travel Authorisations within a Visa Waiver Programme, instead of the transfer of PNR by airline companies, must equally comply with European data protection standards;
   (g)the conditions currently laid down in the US undertakings must become an integral part of the agreement and must be legally binding; a future agreement must have more democratic legitimacy, with full involvement of the European Parliament and/or ratification by national parliaments;
   (h)in any case, a future agreement must be based on the PUSH system and the PULL system should no longer be acceptable given that PUSH should already have been introduced under the previous agreement, as soon as it was technically feasible;
   (i)passengers should be informed of the transfer of PNR records and have access to their data, including rectifying and modifying them, as well as having legal recourse to a legal mechanism or to an independent data protection authority;

As regards the access to SWIFT data

14.  Reiterates its concern at the fact that for four years SWIFT, upon reception of subpoenas, has allowed the US administration access to all data treated in its system, including data that did not concern US citizens and data not generated on US territory, based on the purely commercial decision to have systematic duplication of the data onto a mirroring information system based in the US, in violation of European and national data protection legislation;

15.  Considers it very worrying that this situation, in breach of the ECHR and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as of the Treaties and secondary law (Directive 95/46 and Regulation 45/2001), has not been strongly criticised at an earlier stage either by the ECB or by the Group of 10 Central Banks that oversee SWIFT's activities, and that it is only recently that European banks and their customers have been made aware of the situation through press reports;


16.  Strongly regrets the fact that, several months after these matters came to light, the Council has not yet taken a stance on this subject affecting so many citizens, consumers and enterprises, and that only seven out of 27 Member States have responded to the questionnaire sent by the Commission to obtain clarifications on respect for national and Community data protection laws;

17.  Endorses the opinion expressed by the EDPS on the role of the ECB and calls on the ECB:

   as SWIFT overseer, to explore solutions in order to ensure compliance with data protection rules and to ensure that rules on confidentiality do not prevent information from being supplied in good time to the relevant authorities;
   as user of the SWIFTNet-Fin, to explore solutions to bring its payment operations into compliance with data protection legislation, and to prepare a report on measures taken no later than April 2007;
   as policymaker, to ensure, in cooperation with central banks and financial institutions, that European payment systems, including the future 'TARGET2' system of payments fully comply with European data protection law;

18.  Reiterates its belief that, under clearly defined conditions, data generated in financial transactions can be used for judicial investigative purposes and recalls that both the EU and the US in their respective legislation (Regulation 1781/2006 and the Bank Secrecy Act) have implemented FATF Recommendation VII;

19.  Recalls that, as from 31 December 2006, under FATF Recommendation VII, financial institutions are bound to collect and retain records of certain specified data regarding fund transfers of $ 1000 or more in Europe ($ 3000 in the US); any of these records must be submitted or made available to the authorities upon request(1);


20.  Believes that the EU and the US are fundamental and loyal allies in the fight against terrorism and that this legislative framework should therefore be the basis for the negotiation of a possible international agreement, based on the assumption that SWIFT as a Belgian company is subject to Belgian law and is consequently responsible for the treatment of data in accordance with Article 4(1) of Directive 95/46; points out that the natural consequence would be for SWIFT to be obliged to stop its current practice of mirroring all data concerning EU citizens and enterprises in its US site or to move its alternative database site outside US jurisdiction;

21.  Draws attention to the fact that SWIFT provides services elsewhere than in Europe and in the US and therefore considers that any measure adopted should take into account the global aspect of SWIFT's services;

22.  Calls on the Commission, which has competence both on data protection and on payment systems legislation, to analyse the potential for economic and business espionage stemming from the current design of payment systems in the broadest sense, thus including, in particular, messaging providers, and to report on ways of tackling the problem;

23.  Notes that financial services may be exempted from the Safe Harbour Agreement, as stated by the Article 29 Working Party in its Opinion 10/2006; is concerned at the fact that European companies and sectors with operations in the US not covered by the Safe Harbour agreement may currently be forced to make personal data available to US authorities, in particular US branches of European banks, insurance companies, social security institutions and providers of telecoms services; calls on the Commission to investigate this as a matter of urgency;


24.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States, as well as the US Congress.

(1) (See report recently published by FinCEN on the reporting of cross-border wire transfer: )

Last updated: 8 February 2007Legal notice