Merkel's mobile and US spying

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks at her mobile in the German parliament, September 2012

Europe is insulted and offended by allegations that the Americans monitored Angela Merkel's personal mobile phone, but there are reasons why this will not become a deep rift between Europe and the United States.

Europe feels the need to register a protest and the summit in Brussels today provides such a platform. But there are plenty of voices advising that Europe must not be naive.

Thomas de Maiziere is Germany's defence minister and a close adviser to Angela Merkel.

He said Europe cannot return to "business as usual" in its relationship with Washington, yet he felt it necessary to say that the Americans "are" and "remain" our best friends.

But these revelations have done damage.

'Punch in the face'

In Germany it is widely believed that, in saying that the US "is not monitoring and will not monitor" the chancellor's phone, President Obama deliberately left open the question that her phone might have been listened to in the past.

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Germans, with their memories of Nazism and Communism, will resent these allegations”

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One German paper called the alleged snooping "a punch in the face of German security agencies". Another labelled it "the worst imaginable insult".

It offends, too, because Angela Merkel governs by her mobile phone.

She is often seen to be checking it or even sending texts at political rallies.

She is a leader who has spoken of President Obama as a friend and he has praised her for her leadership - and yet, for all that, it seems she may have been a target for US intelligence.

Germans, with their memories of Nazism and Communism, will resent these allegations.

The French, too, are not willing to let this pass.

Michel Barnier, the EU's internal market commissioner, says that "enough is enough".

He said on Thursday that not only had confidence in the US been shaken but he wanted to develop a "European data cloud", independent of American oversight.

French European Commissioner Michel Barnier: "Enough is enough"

French President Francois Hollande had spoken to President Obama on Monday after a French paper said the Americans had monitored millions of French calls.

Washington said some of the French reports were false, but even so the French president wants to put American spying on the summit agenda.

His poll ratings are low and he is under fierce criticism for his leadership even within his own party.

He may find a row with the US a useful diversion.

Trade talks

But even in France there are voices counselling caution.

One former foreign minister said: "Let us be honest, we're eavesdropping too" - but then went on to say that it was the magnitude of the American operation that had shocked.

There is another reason why this argument will not be allowed to become a long-lasting rift, and that is trade.

The Americans and the Europeans have started discussing a free trade deal with potentially huge benefits to both sides.

In Brussels the deal is regarded as a strategic priority.

So, precise answers will be demanded of the Americans. The Europeans will want guarantees the practices have stopped.

It is an irony that a president who was feted by Europeans for not being George W Bush finds himself under fire.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Why is Joe Public not surprised at the prospect of espionage amongst 'friends' in international relations? Surely the problem is the weakness in the security procedures of the offended? Seems to me the red faces are those of the offended.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    135: To the paranoid US, EVERYBODY has become the enemy, even countries which are, supposedly, allies. They lack a sense of proportion, perhaps a result of not having been bombed at all in WW2 (apart from a few Japanese balloon bombs and two bombs dropped in an Oregon forest), unlike most European countries and Japan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    115 qot
    "Our last hope is the EU and ´unfortunately´ the German ´left´ --they have not yet ´fallen´.
    --and still retain some sanity, support and principles."

    So you do have a sense of humour after all !

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    #135 MissD

    "Does anyone wonder WHY there is a need to spy on your "friends"? I thought that was mainly reserved for the enemy."

    --and spouse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    134 austria

    "The Europeans should have enough brain to create methods of communicating which cannot be intercepted"

    Maybe they should copy what Russia is rumoured to have done:

    Get a special delivery of typewriters -:)

    140 Scott

    "Everyone has skeletons in the closet, the NSA just know about them"

    No doubt so will the Europeans - incl Sasha and Malia's school grades

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    I bet every single EU leader has been compromised. The NSA probably has enough dirt on every single one of them. Play ball, or the odd strategic press leak here and there will name and shame them for things like accepting bribes, cross dressing, B&D sessions, foot fetishes, secretive same gender sexual relations etc... Everyone has skeletons in the closet, the NSA just happens to know about them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    137 democracythreat

    You're quite right. Europe has no standing. It's just a word. There is no Europe to deal with, so how could it have any standing. Some European countries, however, do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    She should be pleased to have been warned about her dodgy security. If the US can do it so can the Chinese,the Russians, the French, the Brits and etc,etc,etc. Wake up Angie there is a Bogie Man out there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    It's a bit weird that Obama is being criticized here. As a US politician, the whole episode will bolster his standing hugely.

    He has been shown to seriously distrust Europe. He keeps the German's on a tight reign, and ignores the French resolutely. He tells Merkel to her face that he tapped her phone, and talks NATO strategy bilaterally with Poland.

    Europe has no real standing in world affairs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    I suggest it's all a bag of lies and that Merkel and her cronies have conspired to get the EU public to vent their anger, which should be directed at Merkel and the EU, elsewhere, and in this for instance it's the US they're using for just such purposes.

    It's just dirty EU tricks again and everyone is falling for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Does anyone wonder WHY there is a need to spy on your "friends"? I thought that was mainly reserved for the enemy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    The Europeans should have enough brain to create methods of communicating which cannot be intercepted.

    This is the realistic path to a new "trust" between "friends".

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    German TV (ARD) survey shows AfD increasing it percentage to 5% in opinion polls, which would get it into the Bundestag.

    I am pleasantly surprised since it has been out of the news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    So, the lady thinks she can pass off her paranoia. What a waste of time & money. The EU summit has much more important things to do than discuss her problem. Even DW referred to it as 'supposed'. At least the EU could chastise her for lying about Greece (That was all 'supposed') so that she could get the Germany people & the EU to enforce measures that were inhuman and could not work economically.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Obama has been dishonest, but the BBC support him.
    All that hope and change, all we have is no hope and change for the worse.
    What a disappointing president he is,

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    127.Pan Albert

    "The reaason why the UKIP will win the European elections is simple. The Eu Parliament is so powerless as to make the UKIP choice riskless"

    The voting system is different and it is about the "EU". Many Brits who, quite rightly, despise the "EU" do not give being free of the monster top priority. Winning the "EU" election will increase their chances of winning the UK in 2015

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    119.D B

    You missed out AfD. They are almost certain to get into the "EU"-parliament next year which should give them an enormous boost

    My belief is that the "EU" will continue to hit the fan. Germans are victims of propaganda in their state media, in schools and probably in universities. Can't last

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    127.Pan Albert

    "Good luck to all Britons. And please stop spying on my telephone calls"

    Please get continental politicians to stop working with British collaborators to force an unwanted Greater European Reich down our throats, waste our money, make it easy for criminals to reach the UK from and through the "EU", stop telling us we are "citizens " of the "EU" when our rights are denied etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    121. quietoaktree

    The reaason why the UKIP will win the European elections is simple. The Eu Parliament is so powerless as to make the UKIP choice riskless. Which it wouldn't be in Westminster elections.

    Incidentally, this is the very fact that proves the UKIP wrong on the EU intrusiveness.

    Good luck to all Britons. And please stop spying on my telephone calls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    106. And after Obama? You think that a gerrymandered and electoral college rigged GOP House, Senate and White House will be the holy grail? More likely that the Neo Cons/GOP warmongers will be back to business as usual: $trillion pa military budget and a new war; Obamacare repealed and 70+ million without health insurance; Medicaid; SS & Medicare gutted; National debt at $30 trillion.



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