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EU blocks agreement to share financial information with US

[JURIST] The European Parliament [official website] voted 378-196 Thursday to nullify [press release] an interim agreement between European Union (EU) member states and the US that gave American counter-terrorism officials access to the financial information of European citizens. The agreement was intended to last nine months, while the EU and US reached a permanent agreement to share European banking information via the SWIFT [official website] banking network. Opponents of the agreement said that it failed to protect [NYT report] the privacy of European residents, but those in favor of the deal argue that further delaying US access to the information increases security risks to both the US and EU.

US Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levy [official profile] spoke out [Europolitics Op-Ed] last week against EU attempts to block the data sharing system. He said the agreement was vital for counter-terrorism efforts, and that privacy concerns were overblown. The European Parliament had the right to block [WSJ report] the agreement under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty [EU backgrounder; JURIST news archive], which entered into force in December. The US and the EU had been sharing banking information since the 9/11 attacks, but the information only became public [NYT report] in 2006. The civil liberties committee of Parliament had earlier voted against [FT report] the agreement.

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