Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen addresses an EU conference, June 17, 2010
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen addresses an EU conference, June 17, 2010 Photo by Reuters
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Ireland is seeking to stop a European Union initiative that would enable Israel to receive sensitive information about European citizens, due to concerns about the use that Israel would make of this information, the Irish minister for justice said over the weekend.

In what may be another blow to Israel's international status, Dermott Ahern said that since Israel allegedly used forged Irish passports to carry out the hit on Hamas official Mohammed al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Israel should not be allowed access to this data. Israel has not admitted to a role in the assassination.

Under a plan put forward at the beginning of the year, the European organizations for protecting individuals' privacy agreed that Israeli companies and European companies should be able to exchange information about customers.

For example, this would mean that an Israeli customer of a local cell phone company, say, Pelephone, would be able to use his phone to connect to the Internet, say, in Italy, and the Italian telecom would be able to receive his personal data from Pelephone and charge his account accordingly. The same would be true for people with European cell phones in Israel who wanted to use Israeli networks.

In addition, multinational corporations would be able to entrust Israeli companies to secure their databases, and the data could be stored on servers in Israel. Plus, information about employees could be passed freely between European and Israeli branches of the same company.

In agreeing to grant this access, the EU authorities decided that Israel had proper information protection systems in place.

However, the plan still needs to be ratified by the government of each individual EU member country before it can take force.

Beyond easing companies' operations, the plan is also intended to make it easier for the authorities to catch cases of money laundering.

Currently, passing data between Israel and Europe is dependent on explicit contracts, which fund many a lawyer's income. The initiative would do away with one of the last remaining trade barriers with Europe.