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Europe and the US have begun to plot the direction of a data sharing link between their police and immigration forces.

It's a long way off, but indications after talks in Berlin today between European and US negotiators are that both sides are in agreement that's where they are headed.

"Our common goals are clear," Franco Frattini, vice president of the European Commission and head of the justice directorate, said in a written statement.

The idea was to protect citizens and the means was to give police authorities the information they needed to do it.

"We must closely coordinate our efforts, share information and cooperate on law enforcement as much as possible," he said.

Frattini, along with Wolfgang Schäuble, federal minister of the interior for the German presidency of the EU, and representatives of the upcoming Portuguese presidency, reached an agreement with a US team led by Michael Chertoff, the wording of which they have not published.

They were friendly talks, apparently, but not very fruitful. They want to pull off "counter-terrorism cooperation" but they can't yet agree on common principles, which is the whole point of the talks.

They reported "progress" in talks to form a common data protection policy in another forum, though they were unable to say what progress had been made. They Europeans also briefed the US on the current direction of European policy in criminal law, a significant steer on which is civil rights - that stickler being the spanner in the works of long running talks over the US claim on European passenger name records. When you consider that in the light of the other stickler - the US refusal to allow recent accession states to the European Union the same visa rights as everyone else, you might conclude its going to be a long journey.®

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