According to Reuters, the European Union (EU) is threatening to suspend two agreements granting the United States access to European financial and travel data unless Washington shows it is respecting EU rules on data privacy.
The threat stems from EU annoyance that the US has engaged in widespread eavesdropping on European Internet users as well as spying on the EU.
Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU's home affairs commissioner, wrote to two senior US officials on Thursday (July 4) to voice European concerns over implementation of the two agreements, both struck in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks and regarded by Washington as critical tools in combating transnational terrorism.
Ms. Malmstrom said in her letters to US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and David Cohen, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, that EU-US relations are going through a "delicate moment."
Malmstrom is also sending a team of officials to Washington next week for previously scheduled reviews of both information-sharing agreements.
COMMENT: The EU's Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) provides the US Department of the Treasury with data stored in Europe on international financial transfers. The Passenger Name Record agreement covers data provided by passengers when booking tickets and checking in for flights. All such information is passed to the US Department of Homeland Security.
The US and the EU need to show that the two data-sharing agreements "continue to bring benefits to our security and that the robust safeguards attached to them are respected....We need complete transparency and a maximum of information on both programs," Malmstrom wrote.
The European Parliament, some of whose members have long worried that the agreements granted the US too much access to European data, called on Thursday for the scrapping of both accords unless Washington revealed the extent of its electronic spying operations in Europe.
Volker Kauder, head of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in parliament, said the US needed to make clear it would not spy on embassies in future for the talks to be successful, according to an advance copy of an article scheduled to appear in RHEINISCHE POST on Saturday (July 6).