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US meeting on NSA surveillance 'constructive,' EU says

European Union Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding attends a debate on the situation of  Roma people at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on October 9, 2013
European Union Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding attends a debate on the situation of Roma people at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on October 9, 2013

The European Commission welcomed a "positive and constructive" meeting Monday with the US attorney general, urging action to curb distrust after revelations about US interception of European communications.

"We are, as a matter of urgency, committed to advancing rapidly in the negotiations on a meaningful and comprehensive data protection umbrella agreement in the field of law enforcement," Viviane Reding, European Commission vice president said following the meeting.

Reding, who is also the body's justice commissioner, spoke of "a very strong signal for restoring a trust" that had recently "vanished" with leaks over the US National Security Agency's interception of European citizens' communications.

The US Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement that "it is of the utmost importance to address these issues by restoring trust and reinforcing our cooperation on justice and home affairs issues."

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which began in June, have revealed US surveillance on a global scale, straining Washington's ties with key allies.

The meeting marked "the first time," according to Reding, that US Attorney General Eric Holder has acknowledged "there are problems" affecting relations between Washington and a number of its European allies.

Reding said Holder promised a satisfactory solution to "swiftly" protect the private data of European and US citizens, and added that "this goodwill has to be followed with concrete actions."

"It's the first time in three years I've seen movement," she said leaving the meeting.

Negotiations over the protection of private data should conclude in the early part of 2014, according to Reding.

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