The European Parliament has begun a special investigation into allegations that the US systematically spied on Europeans. MEPs on the civil-liberties committee yesterday (10 July) agreed to hold 12 extraordinary meetings about alleged spying by the National Security Agency, starting on 5 September. According to Edward Snowden, an NSA whistleblower, the agency spied not only on European citizens but on European Union offices in Washington, DC, New York and Brussels. The committee is scheduled to submit its findings before the end of the year.
Officials from the European Commission's home-affairs department are in Washington this week for a previously scheduled review of two US counter-terrorism programmes in which the EU is involved, the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme (TFTP) and the Passenger Name Record (PNR) scheme.
On Monday, Commission experts, together with officials from the member states and the EU's diplomatic service, held first talks in Washington on data protection issues. These talks with the US on the NSA's Prism programme were a precondition set by France and Germany for their backing of free-trade talks with the US, which also began in Washington on Monday.
Discussion of the spying allegations was ruled out after Sweden and the UK refused, in tense talks in Brussels last Thursday night, to endorse a mandate for the group if it touched on intelligence issues, since these are outside the EU's competence.