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 1026.

    1024. Pancha Chandra

    It's all the same everywhere? That's the line our press use to water down the outrageous. The Soviets did that as well when the truth got too well known. It's not really the same everywhere. Most countries aren't spying on ordinary people to anything like the extent of USA.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1025.

    796.LucyJ
    Sally: Do you have proof?

    Do you have proof he hasn't helped China and Russia create their own NSA?
    =
    I don't need to prove that. You're the one who is making those allegations. If you cannot prove them, they're just empty words, hot air, pure speculation.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1024.

    Spying has become second nature to practically all nations, leaders. No country is immune from this underhand manner of eavesdropping, trying to find national secrets to gain advantage, monitor the progress made by another country in a critical field. International spies have always enjoyed immense fame as the risks they take have fascinated people's minds. One just has to read James Bond novels!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1023.

    For years America’s long media fingers hid its misdeeds (Pinochet, Pol Pot, Monsanto etc.)
    They spread US ‘values’ (blasé about violence, torture, bombing schools, but deeply shocked about nudity)
    Germany has for years come top as world’s most trusted country. USA's one of the lowest lowest- it was bottom under Bush.
    Germans get far more privacy and freedoms than UK or USA.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1022.

    so much thank you for your great covering of news around the world , only i would have a suggestion for putting on PDF version of your news on your site for your foreign listeners for easily reading please.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1021.

    'Democracy is up there with religion as a fictional belief system around which people live their lives!'

    Thanks for this, So true!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1020.

    .
    @ 223. " The next step will be to incorporate cameras in all homes and vehicles plus tracking....." Er yep, they're here...

    Time to pull out the tin foil hat. Any device, capable of connecting to a cell phone tower, to wifi, blue tooth, having GPS, camera's, microphones, finger print sensors...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1019.

    I find it curious to see comments here suggesting that Snowden and Assange are traitors. Prior to the reactions by EU states' representatives decrying the US spying, I wondered whether anything truly constructive would come out of the big leaks. The reactions actually validate the content and significance of the leaks, otherwise US allies would find it easy to "take the high road" and ignore them.

  • Comment number 1018.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1017.

    I agree with Madeleine Albright. Really, Snowden needs to get a life. I am not even an American, but I don't see the point of whistle blowing. Everyone knows every country spies on each other, big deal. He is an American, or was, what is his point for ruffling the feathers? I don't care if they spy on me, I don't do anything wrong. So why are people so angry over this spying thing?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1016.

    It is flippant to say that all governments do this and so what? Before it may have been high priority targets in foreign lands but never before on this colossal scale involving hundreds of millions of ordinary people what they do and to whom they speak. This is a paranoid defensive reaction of a megalomaniac superpower leadership intent on preserving its overbearing fisted dominance in the world.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1015.

    Telling by the editor's picks, BBC again confirms what once was great new source has turned into trendy garbage news. Notice how a terrorist attack in Russia made a footnote in the European section of the website. Not surprised by the recent article with no evidence pertaining to a Russian worldcup manufactured controversy.

    Compare RT news with BBC. You could change BBC to NTN: NATO Trash News.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1014.

    1013
    America and UK failed in trust

    World is better off with those they trust who are not self serving exploitative

    its good to communicate

    but not with those untrustworthy

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1013.

    rootsman @1011
    "never trust"

    Yet we do, and we must. Only we learn of limits, of complexity, of conflicts even between our own principles, of the significance between individuals of material conflict of interest, eventually learning of equal partnership as the context for rational as well as willing trust, thence to the stars

    Strange but inescapably true, denied at our imminent peril

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1012.

    This issue here is not spying, it is 'collection'. But everything collected isn't used. It's not physically possible. If you own communications data which you don't want others to have, then don't leave it lying around in the first place. And if you can't prevent it being collected then at least have the common sense to make sure sensitive data is encrypted.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1011.

    1009 moral of the tale

    is
    (a) never trust an american
    (b) never trust a politician
    (c) never trust a computer

    from now on obama cameron bush blair needs a lie / truth detector to warrant due attention

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1010.

    In a few days all this noisy chatter will be all but forgotten. And the beat goes on. So know all of you know that we know what you're up to. Santa might be sending you a lump of coal this year. Don't turn it down, you might need to burn it for heat. Hey what ever happened to all that Euro noise about CO2 and global warming coming out of Europe. Seems to have died down now that China is #1 in CO2

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1009.

    rootsman @1005
    "overestimate Americans"?
    Majorities all over the world 'put up with' tyranny, its many different forms inherited and merely 'part of the scenery'. But individuals all over the world have an eye for difference: between the fruit unripe, ripe, over; between the coherent and the hypocritical; between the viable and the doomed. Young Snowden has naiveties, as might we all: but still...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1008.

    I think Chancellor Merkel is mistaken. US don't usually view other countries as "friends" but more "junior partners" even "subjects".

    If you look at it their way, you can understand why the US feel there is nothing wrong with spying on countries. They feel like it's keeping an eye on children or young teenagers.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1007.

    Snowdon and Assange are traitors, not heroes. Highly dangerous and totally irresponsible.

 

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