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EU parliament votes to suspend US from financial databank to avoid spying

Published time: October 23, 2013 20:59
AFP Photo / Frederick Florin

AFP Photo / Frederick Florin

The European Parliament voted Wednesday for US access to the global financial database held by a Belgian company to be suspended because of concerns that the US is snooping on the database for financial gain rather than just to combat terrorism.

The Strasbourg based parliament voted 280 in favor, with 254 against, with 30 abstentions, and called for a suspension of US access until a full enquiry clarifies the situation. 

“We need full transparency, especially with all the NSA revelations. Europe cannot accept that the data of private citizens is being accessed without anyone knowing about it", Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberals in the European Parliament, told Reuters. 

EU lawmakers are concerned that the US is covertly using information from the SWIFT database following leaked US documents aired by Brazil’s biggest television network Globo, which indicated that the US has secretly tapped into SWIFT. 

Under current agreements the US has limited access to the SWIFT database. The deal is part of transatlantic cooperation following the September 2001 attacks, and allows certain data from SWIFT to be shared with the US treasury. 

The idea was that by sharing on a limited basis the millions of financial messages that take place across the world every day, it would help combat terrorism.  

However, the parliament’s vote is symbolic, not binding, and rather reflects EU wide public anger at the NSA spying allegations. The European Commission and the various EU governments will still need to approve a suspension of US access to SWIFT. 

A few hundred people take part in a protest outside a US National Security Agency (NSA) listening station in Griesheim near Darmstadt, Germany (AFP Photo)

The European Commission has said in a statement that it had no immediate plans to propose a suspension of SWIFT to its member states and that it was “still waiting for additional written assurances” that the US was respecting its prior written agreement with the EU. 

For its part the US has denied it is doing anything wrong. According to the EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, the US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism, David Cohen, has told her that the US government has respected the 2010 agreement on SWIFT. 

But there is undoubtedly a firm belief within certain sections of the EU parliament that the EU should be more careful about what it shares with the US. 

“The EU cannot continue to remain silent in the face of these ongoing revelations: It gives the impression we are little more than a lapdog of the United States,” said Jan Albrecht, a German Green in the EU parliament.

The vote comes on the back of allegations by the Le Monde newspaper that the NSA has spied on the agency records of millions of phone calls of top French politicians and business people. 

The claims were taken seriously by the French government and on Monday morning the US ambassador to France Charles Rivkin was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry to give an explanation. 

It was also reported earlier this week that years of spying on Mexico by the NSA had helped Americans get the upper hand in business talks and get investment opportunities that were more favorable to them.

Comments (21)

 

Free_DrVojislavSeselj 25.02.2014 00:40

Article adds to long list of reasons for RU to develop her own domestic industries for virus-free microprocessors; virus-free circuit boards, and any other forms of virus-free hardware.

 

Tanya Dmitrieva 14.11.2013 06:23

The USA is a terrorist country. Let's face it the only country except to firebomb cities and to nuke a country. We have CIA and FBI starting shat all over the world. Creating wars and lying and spying, but what can anyone do about it? If this was France doing this they would come down on them had, because they don't have the military might. The USA can just do what they want and this isn't even going anywhere.

 

Tanya Dmitrieva 14.11.2013 06:16

This isn't looked at like the USA is like a piece of garbage. If you are slick and get the upper hand the losers are the ones you scruw over. Unless they have to pay for the crimes they committed. Just like the Communists that murdered tens of millions. They aren't looked at like communist murderers. The USA should just be shunned in the world and nobody buy any of their products.

View all comments (21)
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