Politicians criticise EU-US bank data talks

Plans to share confidential banking data between the European Union and the US for anti-terrorism purposes have united disparate parts of the German political spectrum in opposition.

Politicians criticise EU-US bank data talks
Photo: DPA

EU foreign ministers today gave the go-ahead to European Commission president José Manuel Barroso to negotiate a deal with the US to allow their intelligence agencies access to the Swift system, which helps clear international banking transactions.

German politicians have cried foul over the move.

“It is unreasonable and excessive that banking data can be inspected without any criminal suspicion,” environmentalist Green Party deputy parliamentary floorleader Jürgen Trittin said in an interview published Monday in the daily Berliner Zeitung.

“The federal government should not agree under any circumstances to allow this attack on principle of personal data privacy,” Trittin said.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the head of the conservative Christian Social Union, sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), also denounced the measure.

“That such a wide-reaching intervention into the personal privacy rights of citizens by the bureaucracy is possible, without the involvement of the European or German parliaments, is a scandal,” said CSU head Horst Seehofer at a speech in Munich on Monday.

An agreement between the US and EU could be in place by autumn.

In addition to being able to monitor financial transactions that cross borders, the US government could also have access to data about purely domestic transactions, warned the German government’s commissioner for data privacy, Peter Schaar.

In an interview with the broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, he demanded that the German and European parliaments be given the right to scrutinize the deal.

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EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.