Despite staunch German opposition to parts of a draft EU-US bank data-sharing deal to counter terrorism, EU ministers will today (23 April) give the European Commission their blessing to renegotiate the revised agreement.
Brussels-based diplomats said EU justice ministers, who are meeting in Brussels today, will give the European Commission their approval to renegotiate the SWIFT banking data sharing deal that was toppled by the European Parliament in February (EURACTIV 11/02/10).
Despite opposition from German factions and "reservations" in the UK, the deal will go through, said diplomats.
The agreement, which has been a matter for intense debate in Europe, has been significantly rewritten to meet demands from MEPs who said it infringed the civil liberties of EU citizens on two major points: data retention and their rights in a court of law.
Germany and UK in row over data
Diplomats said that Germany and the UK have been sparring on how much room to give the US on access to bulk financial data via SWIFT and on how long unused data can be stored by the US Treasury.
The transfer of bulk data had previously been the elephant in the room, with civil liberties advocates and MEPs arguing for a considerable decrease in the level of data accessible via SWIFT servers.
"Germany has tried to water down the deal as much as possible," revealed a diplomatic source.
The UK is so keen to approve the deal, said sources, that it wants to rewrite "vague language" on bulk data which it believes would have a hard time getting US approval as it stands.
"They need something the US will sign up to," according to diplomatic sources, who said the UK wants to give the US room to request bulk data transfers, while Germany wants more restrictions on them.
Diplomats said Germany's justice minister is most reluctant to rubberstamp the deal, as he is uncomfortable with allowing unused data to be stored for five years.
The US, according to European Commission officials, is keen to clinch an agreement by June as it is worried about a security gap during which would-be terrorists could plot fresh attacks.
SWIFT's servers, according to the Belgium-based company, ceased transferring data to the US Treasury after the European Parliament rejected the proposal in February.
Alhough the agreement has given EU citizens reciprocal rights to their US counterparts, the text does not guarantee EU citizens the right to redress in an EU court, which has been a point of concern.
EU response to US anti-terror plan
On the margins of tomorrow's talks, ministers will also discuss EU plans to mirror the US's Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) set up after the 9/11 attack on the New York twin towers (EURACTIV 25/03/10).
Diplomats say this will be a slow process as the EU will have to try to get the right technology and staff to create an EU TFTP.
"It would take a lot of time for the US to transfer its knowledge and technology for an EU TFTP," revealed a source.