The White House says high-level U.S. and German security officials will meet in the coming days to discuss German media reports of U.S. surveillance activities allegedly targeting European Union officials.
News of the meeting came late Wednesday in a White House statement released just hours after President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone.
The statement said Mr. Obama assured the German leader that Washington takes seriously the concerns of the European Union. It said the two leaders also reaffirmed the importance of continued close intelligence cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
Several European leaders, including French President Francois Hollande and EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, have strongly criticized allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency bugged European Union offices and gained access to its internal computer networks.
The allegations, first published last week in Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, said the NSA placed listening devices in EU offices in Washington, Brussels and United Nations offices in New York. It also said the agency infiltrated EU computers to monitor telephone conversations, emails and other documents.
The magazine linked its information to secret U.S. documents leaked by accused spy Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who fled the United States last month before giving classified surveillance material to foreign media. Snowden is reported stranded in an airport transit area in Moscow, as he continues to request political asylum in a host of countries.
European Union leaders agreed Wednesday that free trade talks with the United States should be held in tandem with discussions about U.S. surveillance. EU justice chief Viviane Reding said she is seeking additional information on the alleged spying. She said that for the EU - U.S. trade agreements to succeed there needs to be mutual trust.