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EU threatens to suspend data agreements with US, citing privacy concerns

The EU threatened to suspend US access to certain financial and travel data in wake of recent NSA leaks.

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European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels.
Malmstrom expressed concerns over US surveillance techniques.

Francois Lenoir/ Reuters/ File

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The European Union 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, EU officials said on Friday.

The threat reflects European disquiet about allegations that the United States 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 U.S. officials on Thursday to voice European concerns over implementation of the two agreements, both struck in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and regarded by Washington as important tools in the fight against terrorism.

"Should we fail to demonstrate the benefits of (the agreements) for our citizens and the fact that they have been implemented in full compliance with the law, their credibility will be seriously affected and in such a case I will be obliged to reconsider (whether) the conditions for their implementation are still met," Malmstrom said.

EU-U.S. relations are going through a "delicate moment", she wrote in the letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and David Cohen, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

"Mutual trust and confidence have been seriously eroded and I expect the US to do all that it can to restore them," she said in the letter, seen by Reuters.

Malmstrom is dispatching a team of officials to Washington next week for previously scheduled reviews of both information-sharing agreements.

The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) provides the US 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 U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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