BRUSSELS: The European Commission sought Wednesday to ease fears that details about the medical conditions and sexual preferences of EU citizens could be abused by the American authorities under a trans-Atlantic system allowing law enforcement and security agencies to obtain private information.
The European Union is under pressure from the United States to make it possible for the American authorities to obtain information about EU citizens - particularly about those who travel to the United States - as part of a fight against terrorism and international crime.
At the same time, the EU is under pressure from its own citizens and lawmakers to adhere to stringent standards on access to information about how citizens surf the Internet, what they buy with their credit cards and places they have visited.
Talks between officials in the United States and Europe on the issue have been under way for 18 months. The International Herald Tribune reported Saturday that an agreement was close to completion.
Jonathan Faull, the director general of the Justice, Freedom and Security department at the European Commission, said at a news conference that the two sides were "70 to 80 percent of the way there" and that a final deal was possible by the end of 2009.