European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, responsible for justice and fundamental rights, expressed her satisfaction for the “positive and constructive” meeting with US Attorney General Eric Holder on data protection, following revelations about US interception of EU communications.
According to Spiegel Online, Reding said she was on a “reconnaissance mission” to the US and wanted to find out if the Americans saw Europeans as partners or adversaries in the spying debate.
Following the meeting, Reding told reporters that Washington and Brussels had agreed to speed up negotiations on data protection and underlined the need to "restore confidence” following revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden on US eavesdropping on EU leaders, companies and citizens.
Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers said the Snowden revelations had caused regrettable tensions in transatlantic relations, which needed to be overcome.
Reding said this was the first time in three years that the EU was discussing data protection with the US, and that her American counterparts had acknowledged there were problems.
“An American who has concerns regarding the use of his personal data in France can address a French tribunal. A Frenchman who has a similar problem in the US cannot turn to a US court”, Reding was quoted as saying by the French daily Libération.
The Commission vice-president underlined that data protection was a fundamental right in Europe and that the EU did not make any difference regarding the nationality of the individuals concerned.
She explained that this was the main stumbling block for the conclusion of a framework agreement on police and judicial cooperation between the EU and the US, under discussion for two years already.
“Everything is fine except one thing: the rights of Europeans in the US,” Reding said.
Speaking in the Bundestag yesterday (18 November), German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the NSA spying scandal was putting pressure on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks.
Merkel urged Washington to provide “a clarification” of its alleged mass surveillance as “a basis for building new transatlantic trust”.