Barroso Wants Parallel EU-U.S. Trade Talks, Wiretapping Probe

European Commission President Jose Barroso said the start of trans-Atlantic free trade talks should coincide with U.S. willingness to discuss reported wiretapping activities with its European partners.

“We are committed of course to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” Barroso said in Berlin today after a youth unemployment summit attended by European Union leaders. “But we expect that in parallel we have work in EU-U.S. working groups that will analyze the oversight of intelligence activities.”

For the trans-Atlantic free trade and investment partnership to be a success, confidence is needed between the partners, said Barroso. He said the commission’s approach has the full backing of Germany and France.

EU demands for clarifications come after the German magazine Der Spiegel ran a story detailing allegations of spying on EU institutions, both in Washington and New York, by the U.S. National Security Agency. The allegations were made based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who is seeking asylum in order to avoid extradition to face espionage charges in the U.S.

“We are all very concerned, that has become clear in our talks today, about certain activities that have happened,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the same Berlin press briefing. It’s “the right idea” to start both processes in parallel, Merkel said, adding she assumes a parallel start can be achieved.

G-8 Talks

Following a declaration by the two sides at last month’s Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, negotiations on the TTIP between EU and U.S. officials are scheduled to start on July 8 in Washington.

“The position of France is that trade talks cannot start without getting at the same time talks with the U.S. verifying the activities of their secret services in our countries,” said French President Francois Hollande in Berlin. Trade talks “can’t happen unless there’s also this discussion, at the same date, of the secret service activities.”

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