EU, US to discuss privacy rights alongside trade talks

VILNIUS, Lithuania — European Union officials on Friday said they will discuss ‘‘data protection and privacy rights’’ in parallel with trade talks with the United States next week.

But the head of the 28-nation bloc’s executive Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said broader concerns about US intelligence activities would have to be raised by member states individually because they fall under the category of national security.

Reports last weekend that the US National Security Agency bugged EU diplomatic offices in Washington and infiltrated its computer network angered European officials. Many European leaders called for the NSA’s surveillance activities to be discussed in parallel with trade talks opening next week in Washington.


Lithuania, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said the process would start with a meeting on Monday.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

‘‘It will deal with data protection and privacy rights of EU citizens falling within the competence of the EU, addressing the scope and composition of future meetings,’’ the presidency said.

Barroso said that process was ‘‘very important to build and to enforce the confidence that is necessary also to pursue very ambitious agreements that we hope to conclude with the United States namely, in the field of trade and investment.’’

However, he added that ‘‘intelligence matters, those that are a matter of national security, not [falling under the purview] of the European Union, will be discussed by the member states with the United States.’’

The EU chief was speaking in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, which has taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the 28-member bloc as trans-Atlantic relations have been overshadowed by claims of US eavesdropping.