The European Commission finalized a draft of a banking data-sharing agreement with the U.S. today. The draft will now be presented to the European Parliament and the heads of state meeting for final approval before taking effect. A similar deal was torpedoed by the EU parliament in February due to concerns over privacy infringements. In a nod to parliamentarians’ concerns, the new agreement includes conditions to limit shared data to information related to ongoing terrorist investigations and to forbid data mining.
This is the first significant example of the EU parliament’s expanded powers under the Lisbon Treaty. I remain convinced that if a truly European political identity does emerge, it will happen through this dynamic. A strong EU parliament will in turn create the need for a strong and truly European executive. Call me an eternal optimist, but I can’t help but think that this kind of institutional power struggle, combined with the financial crisis, could actually result in a stronger European political union taking shape. It won’t be quite as dramatic as people were hoping for back in January, with the advent of the Lisbon Treaty. But I don’t think things will turn out quite so apocalyptically as most people seem to expect today, either.
The funny thing about expectations for the EU, though, is that they are almost always ahistorical, existing outside of time. As if the union has never really outrun the cataclysmic events of the last century that forged it. When it comes to the EU, you often hear imminent announcements of either the beginning or the end, a new age or the final curtain. The truth is somewhere in between. The EU is becoming, and that takes time — and a long succession of events.