MEPs have decided to put an end to the provisionally enforced Swift pact that had allowed US intelligence services access to details of millions of bank transfers performed by European citizens.
The Swift pact had allowed US authorities an unprecedented level of access to financial data. The intention behind the agreement was to help with the fight against international terrorism. But in spite of repeated requests from Washington for a renewal of the agreement, the European parliament has brought about its closure.
MEPs voted in their hundreds to bring the pact to an end, with most claiming that the data sharing had infringed on the rights of millions of Europeans with no beneficial outcome to justify it.
A spokesperson for the British government revealed that it was their belief that the end of the Swift pact would jeopardise the ongoing fight against terrorism. However, MEPs who voted against the pact said that the agreement had been flawed since its inception and that the US would have to reach a better agreement before personal information could be shared legitimately.
One Dutch MEP said that there were other legal avenues available to the US if it wanted to harvest data relating to financial transactions within the EU in the future. He went on to point out that if MEPs were calling for the right to monitor financial transactions within the US, this would almost certainly be vetoed by Congress.
It seems that MEPs were not acting entirely in line with the governments that they represent, as it is believed that a majority of EU member states were actually in favour of making the Swift pact a permanent fixture of international data sharing. The Swift pact has been in action for nearly 9 years since the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001, after which the global hunt for terrorists commenced.
There is clearly a strong sense of emotion driving the decisions being made on both sides of the Atlantic and division between authorities, MEPs and average citizens is creating a very difficult working environment. Clearly the protection of personal data relating to financial transactions is important to everyone, but it could be argued that transparency in this industry is the cost of freedom.