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Germany Blocks EU-US Bank Data Agreement

An agreement negotiated between the US and the EU on sharing bank data in the context of antiterrorism has just been blocked by Germany, France, Finland and Austria. This shift in German policy signals general political changes that will continue to impact transatlantic relations.

  • Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, German Minister of Justice, has a strong socially liberal profile. She had the same post in a CDU/CSU-FDP coalition in the '90s and resigned when her party agreed to far-reaching surveillance measures, eventually turning to bring a case before Germany's constitutional court that overturned much of the legislation.
  • This move has happened in the EU at the ambassador level of the Council, in anticipation of a decision that would have been taken on November 30th. That is, one day ahead of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which will give the European Parliament the power to vote on this matter. The European Parliament, which wants to add significant protections or indefinitely shelve this agreement, was outraged by these plans. This procedural concern was also noted by Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.

Changes in Germany's coalition following the victory of the CDU/CSU and FDP have resulted in a more liberal profile on internal security matters.

Wolfgang Schäuble, a strong proponent of pervasive surveillance, shifted from Interior to Finance. Thomas De Maizière, now on Interior, is a more centrist CDU man close to Angela Merkel. Brigitte Zypries, on Justice for the SPD in the previous two governments, was anything but a consistent champion of civil liberties.

Changes in the European Union mean that the US will not only have to coordinate with a German government that is more attentive to privacy concerns, but also with a European Parliament which suddenly has a big say on justice matters and generally likes to be seen as a champion of the citizens

The stance of the Obama administration on privacy and antiterrorism is perhaps the most surprising aspect of its program, so far. We now see that Congress is more liberal than the administration in the ongoing discussion over the PATRIOT Act. Dick Cheney wasn't so bad an analyst when he indicated that the executive would be loath to give up privileges.

The Obama administration is on the wrong side of this debate. At a time when the FBI has 400,000 people on its terrorist watch list but is still unable to prevent a case like Nidal Malik Hasan (not that it was necessarily practically preventable) we can see the limits of constructing a pervasive electronic surveillance apparatus.

Security expert Bruce Schneier has more general thoughts on these issues in his latest newsletter, where amongst other things he addresses what he calls 'Security Theater'. That is, the introduction of intrusive security measures that don't actually work, but which are nonetheless a major mode of how goverments are dealing with security.

Germany is now in a good place to start leading the way on more effective policy.

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Zyme on :

Maybe the transatlantic surveillance proponents should relocate to the Netherlands and start supporting grass roots projects (in comparison). Surely their expertise is in great need there: http://www.physorg.com/news177358842.html

Nanne Zwagerman on :

I don't think they're going to have so much to do. This project (kilometre charge) has been stuck in the government's version of development hell for 11 years now, and, tellingly, the current government is planning to start rolling it out a few years after it leaves office.

Pamela on :

Uh Oh. Not good news. But I guess Europe is finally catching on to what a scam Obama is. Did you see this Spiegel article? "Obama Lied to the Europeans". Yeah, big surprise there, sparky....... http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,661678,00.html

Zyme on :

I read it in German and was astonished about two things: Although I don't know the author's general attitude I was sure that nothing comparably hostile with regard to Obama was published on SPON yet. Also it neglected entirely the European role in "failing to address climate change" (you can't use enough quotation marks here). Merkel was already making a common European position impossible by vetoing a proposal of the Commission towards a fixed percentage for emission reduction. So basically the press here acquires its habitual attitude towards American presidents again ;) Finally the praising period comes to an end.

Pamela on :

Hi Zyme. Well, the only emissions targets Europe will agree to are ones they have no intention of meeting, so I guess it's moot. I read the Copenhagen document. It's big on the global governance angle. Had Obama even THOUGHT about signing it, it would be grounds for impeachment (I'm not joking). He swore to protect and defend the Constitution. I know, I know, he didn't really mean it, but he can't be TOO overt about these things.

Zyme on :

"Had Obama even THOUGHT about signing it, it would be grounds for impeachment (I'm not joking)." Seriously? I havn't read it. Would it include giving away a portion of sovereignty? I am glad that this project is likely to fail, we already have burned too many billions on this quasi-religious nonsense. With even Obama slowing down the savers of the world, one gets the impression that our statesmen have to behave like bishops in the medieval times. Praising god and the values of the bible in public, and doing real politics afterwards ;)

Pamela on :

zyme, here it is (pdf format) Does it cede sovreignty? Oh, yeah, big time. http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/un-fccc-copenhagen-2009.pdf "Framework Convention on Climate Change" wattsupwiththat has some highlights http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/16/obama-poised-to-cede-us-sovereignty-in-copenhagen-claims-british-lord-monckton/ (scroll down a bit, past the coverage of Lord Monckton's speech) Example: 38. The scheme for the new institutional arrangement under the Convention will be based on three basic pillars: government; facilitative mechanism; and financial mechanism, and the basic organization of which will include the following: World Government (heading added) a) The government will be ruled by the COP with the support of a new subsidiary body on adaptation, and of an Executive Board responsible for the management of the new funds and the related facilitative processes and bodies. The current Convention secretariat will operate as such, as appropriate. check out the financial part - it's pure wealth redistribution.

Pat Patterson on :

Plus the august members of the Senate, who have the final say on treaties, already have those little tiny beads of sweat on their brows when they contemplate the consequences of ratification.

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