As a compromise, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Europe would begin the talks as planned, but that it would at the same time set up EU-US working groups to examine the scope of US intelligence tactics.
“Negotiations on [the partnership] are and will remain a top priority,” Barroso told the news conference. “In parallel it is important to address concerns that have been clearly expressed on the European side on some intelligence activities and also on the implication for privacy and data protection.”
Even though France could not unilaterally block the talks after EU states gave the Commission a negotiating mandate last month, the row was yet another setback for a trade deal that could boost the EU and US economies by more than US$100 billion each a year.
Paris last month threatened to block talks unless its movies and online entertainment were ring-fenced.
Hollande said last week that if true, the spying allegations may hinder US-EU relations.