The EU’s parliament is a dodgy and fundamentally undemocratic institution, but under the EU’s new constitutional arrangements it has just got quite a bit more powerful, and that (beyond the security considerations) is what makes this story so interesting:
MEPs have voted to block an agreement to allow US authorities to access financial data. A deal has been secured between the EU and the USA to allow data contained in the SWIFT financial messaging system to be used for counter-terrorism purposes. However under new competencies granted by the Lisbon Treaty, it must be approved by the European Parliament before it can come into effect. Socialist group leader Martin Schultz, and his UK colleague Claude Moraes both refused to back the plans, with Mr Schultz accusing the US of treating MEPs as “political dwarfs”.
Mind you, nobody can accuse Schulz of inconsistency. He’s big on financial privacy, as this extract from a 2009 piece by Daniel Hannan MEP reminds us:
We MEPs get an easier ride than our Westminster colleagues. When Derek Conway was found to be paying his sons for nothing, it was the scandal of the decade. Yet dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Euro MPs are doing a Conway: that is, keeping immediate relations on their payroll without being required to show that they do any work. Still, at least MPs will eventually tell us what they have spent. No such transparency is on offer from the European Parliament. Last year, a Dutch anti-corruption MEP called Paul Van Buitenen reported widespread malpractice in the use of MEPs’ allowances. Some of the behaviour he had unearthed, he said, would result in criminal convictions. The Parliament’s response? To repress the whole story. “We’d like to publish the report,” said one official, “but if we did, no one would vote in the European elections.” And so the two big groups, the European People’s Party led by Joseph Daul and the Party of European Socialists led by Martin Schulz, voted to forbid publication.