The EU-Constitution, later rebranded as the Lisbon Treaty did not get a very warm reception. 1. December is Lisbon day, the new Treaty enters into force. And what is the Council of Ministers about to do 30 November? This monday the ministers are about to pass the SWIFT agreement with the United States prior to the parliament getting new oversight competences. An affront against the European Parliament and “good governance” in Europe under the Swedish Council Presidency.
The SWIFT agreement legalises the business espionage of American services on European bank transaction data which is managed by a private Belgium consortial company called S.W.I.F.T. Officially around 3500 files a year are checked for counter-terrorism purposes, results are shared with European security agencies. But the data is extremely poisonous because financial transmission data reveals confidential business information which would seriously undermine the trust in the banking system. In terms of financial markets, transaction data information as such is of monetary value. Unilateral disclosure could distort financial market information allocation. In the summer when it was about to be set as an “A-Point” in the Council I felt it important to sent out a German press release.
Surprisingly the SWIFT debate does not receive much attention in the English news. In Germany it is big news. The Bundesrat, the Chamber of Federal States filed a strong resolution. The Libdems, among them Minister of Justice Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger are very sensitive to the issue. The German banking sector is alerted. In the middle of the month four nations blocked the agreement, among them also France, Finland and Austria. A fierce political battle happens behind the scenes. The current German position is abstention. Ironically Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger gets a lot of critical press now as if she was the driving force, not Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Whatever is decided tomorrow, an adoption would strongly undermine the Lisbon confidence. I fully agree with Elmar Brok (CDU) who called it an affront against citizens of the Union. The Swedish Presidency would be well advised to remove the vote from the agenda for tomorrow, just as a matter of good administration.