Spying row: Merkel urges US to restore trust at EU summit

 

Chancellor Merkel: "I've made it clear to the US president that spying on friends is not acceptable"

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has said it is "really not on" for friends to spy on each other, after allegations of US snooping on her phone calls.

She said she had given that message to US President Barack Obama when they spoke on Wednesday.

Speaking after the first day of an EU summit in Brussels, Mrs Merkel said France and Germany wanted to hold talks with the US to settle the matter.

Other EU leaders also voiced concern about the scale of US surveillance.

The spying row threatens to overshadow EU talks on economic growth and migration to the EU. Mrs Merkel has demanded a "complete explanation" of the claims, which came out in the German media.

Analysis

The allegation that the US National Security Agency eavesdropped on the personal phone of a closely allied Western leader, if true, is unwelcome news but hardly surprising.

It has already been revealed that the NSA has been bugging closed discussions inside both the United Nations and the European Union.

The US has many shared interests with European nations like Germany - counter-terrorism being one of them. But when it comes to economic intelligence, their interests can often diverge into outright competition.

The US, UK, Russia, China and many other nations all go to great lengths to acquire inside information on other countries covertly - that's what spies do.

One former insider says that, in the course of targeting other individuals, the NSA may well have eavesdropped on David Cameron's phone calls. The UK-US special relationship, he said, is not enshrined in law.

She grew up in former communist East Germany, where secret police surveillance was pervasive.

Earlier on Thursday, her delegation in Brussels confirmed she had met briefly to discuss the issue with France's President Francois Hollande, who has expressed alarm at reports that millions of French calls have been monitored by the US.

There is concern that the furore could jeopardise EU-US talks on reaching a major free trade deal. The head of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel, said such a deal was hard to imagine if the US had infringed citizens' privacy. The SPD is in coalition talks with Chancellor Merkel.

'Unacceptable'

In a separate development, Italy's weekly L'Espresso reported that the US and UK had been spying on Italian internet and phone traffic.

The revelations were sourced to US whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is alleged that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and UK spy centre GCHQ eavesdropped on three undersea cables with terminals in Italy.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta described the allegations as "inconceivable and unacceptable" and said he wanted to get to the truth of them.

Meanwhile, the Guardian newspaper reported that the NSA had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders after being given their numbers by another US government official. Again Edward Snowden was the source of the report.

White House spokesman Jay Carney: "We will work to maintain the strongest possible ties with our closest allies"

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the alleged spying on Mrs Merkel's mobile phone calls was "serious" and added: "I will support her (Merkel) completely in her complaint and say that this is not acceptable - I think we need all the facts on the table first."

Finland's Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen echoed him, saying: "We have to get clarification of what has happened and we also need a guarantee that this will never happen again, if it has happened."

Start Quote

It is hardly as if America is the only country to spy on its allies. But as the list of wronged friends grows by the day, the Snowden effect is not just complicating US diplomacy but also seriously compromising it.”

End Quote

Germany summoned the US ambassador in Berlin over the alleged spying.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said about his meeting with US envoy John Emerson that he had demanded straight answers from Washington, warning that their friendship is at stake.

Mrs Merkel discussed the issue with President Obama on Wednesday. He told her the US was not monitoring her calls and would not in future, the White House said.

However, it left open the question of whether calls had been listened to in the past.

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright said the spying allegations were "not a surprise to people - countries spy on each other", and added that France had spied on her when she was in government.

Cutting red tape

The formal agenda for the summit focuses on efforts to consolidate Europe's fragile economic recovery and to create a single market in digital services.

British Prime Minister David Cameron will also call on the EU to reduce regulations for business.

But France's President Hollande pressed for the spying issue to be put on the agenda.

Woman on phone (file image)

The veteran French EU Commissioner Michel Barnier told the BBC that "enough is enough", and confidence in the US had been shaken.

Mr Barnier, the commissioner for internal market and services, said Europe must not be naive but develop its own strategic digital tools, such as a "European data cloud" independent of American oversight.

The digital economy is on the official summit agenda for Thursday evening.

One of the key initiatives of the European Commission is its Digital Agenda for Europe, which it says "aims to reboot Europe's economy and help Europe's citizens and businesses to get the most out of digital technologies".

EU summit agenda

Thursday

  • First session (18:15 local; 16:15 GMT): Digital economy, innovation and services - including the creation of a "digital single market" and improving IT skills
  • Working dinner (20:15 local): Economic and social policy and the economic and monetary union - including youth unemployment, financing of the economy and co-ordination of economic policies across the EU

Friday

  • Second session (10:00 local): Migratory flows and preparations for Eastern Partnership summit
  • News conference (tbc)

Council officials say investment in the digital economy is vital to boost growth, which is creeping back to the European economy. They want to address market fragmentation and a perceived shortage of IT skills.

Mr Cameron is likely to use the economic discussion to raise what Britain sees as a proliferation of red tape.

He said last week: "All too often EU rules are a handicap for firms," and that small business owners "are forced to spend too much time complying with pointless, burdensome and costly regulations".

The European Commission - which makes the rules - has recognised that it may have gone too far in some places.

President Jose Manuel Barroso says he wants the EU to be "big on big things and smaller on smaller things".

He says the Commission has cut more than 5,000 legal acts in the past five years and wants to do more.

On Friday the leaders will discuss relations with central European countries, ahead of a November summit in Lithuania where new agreements will be signed.

Migration will also be discussed, following the loss of hundreds of lives among migrants trying to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 226.

    It is quite an ironic story when you consider she spied on behalf of the infamous East German Stasi for years!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 225.

    For people who aren't aware...

    The British media has been issued with a 'DA-Notice' gagging order in order to toe the government line regarding the Snowden revelations.

    Look it up, look at the news (or non-news), and make your own mind up.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 224.

    America is a paranoid state that has lost all control of its security service it now owes the World an explanation of what the hell its up to trying to destabilise the peace of that World there should be talks that they are not invited to to decide a cause of action

  • rate this
    +36

    Comment number 223.

    A lot of comments remark on how governments have been spying on each other for years so what's new?
    The difference is now governments are spying and collecting massive amounts of data on all of its own citizens and others from different countries. This data will be misused .
    The next step will be to incorporate cameras in all homes and vehicles plus tracking.....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 222.

    US spied on Merkel to secretly gain an unfair advantage. It's immoral.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 221.

    I hope this helps the EU and others extract better terms still in any deals with the US. If we can't trust 'em, we need something substantial offered ins lieu of trust.

    If this is how they compete, this is how they will be treated.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 220.

    @167.

    It also leaves you wondering what else we don't know.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 219.

    These actions fundamentally undermine the democracy of the west, especially that of US. We expect to see this sort of untrustworthy behaviour say from Chinese govt who have been plagued by hacking claims.

    Whats the point of democracy if those who perpetrate offences that are clearly not in national security interest, cannot be held accountable or tried?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 218.

    Do you think this started before or after Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ?

    You expect intelligence gathering, even between "friendly" nations, but Merkel has every right to be angry. On her mobile, the US would have eavesdropped on both matters of state and personal discussions.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 217.

    Does the NSA copy Hollywood, or does Hollywood copy the NSA? Only a hard drinking renegade agent named something like Jack Stryker knows the answer, but he doesn't play by the rules, or he'd tell Frau Merkel she really should have a secure mobile phone.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 216.

    Truly , I find it very difficult to believe that heads of governments are naïve enough to believe their phones and private lives are not being constantly monitored by outside powers . Spying , or what ever you wish to call it , has always been going on since time immemorial , has it not ?

  • rate this
    -52

    Comment number 215.

    During World War II the brilliant "spying" activities at Bletchley Park helped Britain enormously. It can be argued that today's interceptions are in principle no different. As other correspondents have pointed out, if your communications are insecure then whose fault is that? Maybe the Germans will now buy good old-fashioned typewriters as the Russians were reported to be recently doing.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 214.

    Europeans don't like it.Isn't that just too bad.Europe thinks the US is an ally it could abuse, ignore its interests, and there wouldn't be consequences.Ain't payback a b####. Why should America trust Europe?What has Europe ever done for America?We dragged Europe kicking and screaming away from the USSR evil empire.20,000 US hydrogen bombs was all that stood between Europe and slavery.Suck it up.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 213.

    I wonder how many people posting about how awful this snooping is also post every last minutiae of their lives on Facebook and the like?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 212.

    US AND UK spys on the Eu countries !

    As GCHQ is a "100%" subsidiary of NSA so is the UK of the US.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 211.

    A recent survey revealed that the most numerous attempts to spy on UK government sites came from China and France. It is no good EU countries protesting from their unelected dictatorship to the USA.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 210.

    Do we protect the whistle blower? Nope, we claim vital secrets are lost. We should know sometimes, or assume that the intelligence services and government will spy on anything they can, and cannot be trusted.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 209.

    People are so naive. This has been going on since time began. Technology has made it even easier. All these whistle blowers and revelations are so crass. How do people think the real world works? There is nothing new in this.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 208.

    I remember a time when we used to think invasive "Big Brother" style surveillance was reserved for Russia and other Eastern Bloc nations. Now it seems that The West has been far worse.

    The makers of Rocky IV lied to us. We're the bad guys!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 207.

    What a good idea, a European Cloud, iCuckooland I presume, where the Brussels Brigade can keep their collective head.
    The naivety of some posters is incredible. What do you think the German, French, Dutch, British Intelligence services are up to this very minute?

 

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