* European Parliament delegation flies to Washington on
* Lawmakers to quiz U.S. officials over NSA spying leaks
* Talks to explore "possible legal remedies for EU citizens"
By Charlie Dunmore
BRUSSELS, Oct 25 A delegation of lawmakers from
the European Union will travel to Washington on Monday to seek a
response to allegations of widespread spying by the United
States against EU citizens and governments, including German
Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The three-day visit by members of the European Parliament's
civil liberties committee follows reports this week that the
U.S. National Security Agency accessed tens of thousands of
French phone records and monitored Merkel's mobile phone.
The revelations have drawn condemnation from EU leaders
meeting in Brussels, with Merkel demanding that the United
States sign up to a "no-spying" agreement with Germany and
France by the end of the year, in line with similar deals with
Britain and others.
The nine-member delegation will meet senior U.S. government
and intelligence officials and explore "possible legal remedies
for EU citizens" resulting from the alleged surveillance,
although it is not clear what such remedies might entail.
The European Parliament has already opened an inquiry into
the impact on Europe from leaks by former NSA contractor Edward
Snowden, and has led a push for tougher data protection rules
and the suspension of a major transatlantic data-sharing deal.
"A key priority for this inquiry is to gather all relevant
information and evidence from U.S. sources, which is why this
fact-finding delegation to Washington is so important," Claude
Moraes, a British socialist lawmaker who is leading the
parliamentary inquest, said in a statement.
The European Parliament, with 766 members directly elected
from the EU's 28 member states, this week voted in favour of an
amended package of laws that would greatly strengthen EU data
protection rules that date from 1995.
The rules would restrict how data collected in Europe by
firms such as Facebook, Yahoo! and Google is shared with non-EU
countries, and impose fines of 100 million euros ($138 million)
or more on rule breakers.
Fearing that the rules, if adopted, will raise the cost of
handling data in Europe, major U.S. technology companies and the
U.S. government have lobbied hard against the proposals, which
the backers hope may become law during 2015.