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NSA activities to be discussed during talks between E.U. and U.S.


Many European leaders called for the NSA’s surveillance activities to be discussed in parallel with trade talks opening next week in Washington. (Jock Fistick/BLOOMBERG)

European Union officials said Friday that they will discuss “data protection and privacy rights” in parallel with trade talks with the United States next week.

But Jose Manuel Barroso, head of the European Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s executive body, said that broader concerns about U.S. intelligence activities would have to be raised by member states individually because they fall under the category of national security.

European media reports that the U.S. National Security Agency bugged E.U. diplomatic offices in Washington and infiltrated its computer network have angered European officials. Many European leaders called for the NSA’s surveillance activities to be discussed in parallel with trade talks opening next week in Washington.

Lithuania, which holds the rotating E.U. presidency, said the process would start with a meeting on Monday.

“It will deal with data protection and privacy rights of E.U. citizens falling within the competence of the E.U., addressing the scope and composition of future meetings,” the presidency said in a statement.

Barroso said that process was “very important to build and to enforce the confidence that is necessary also to pursue very ambitious agreements that we hope to conclude with the United States, namely in the field of trade and investment.”

However, he added that “intelligence matters, those that are a matter of national security, not [falling under the purview] of the European Union, will be discussed by the member states with the United States.”

The union’s commissioner for home affairs, Cecilia Malmström, suggested that two flagship information-sharing accords with the United States could be suspended because of the issue.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Treasury Undersecretary David S. Cohen, Malmström said that “mutual trust and confidence have been seriously eroded.”

The bad blood could take a toll on the Passenger Name Record program, in which Europe provides the United States with airline passenger information, and the Terrorist Financing Tracking Program. Both accords followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

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