European leaders call for talks to settle US spy row


Angela Merkel: "Once the seeds of mistrust have been sown it doesn't facilitate our co-operation... it makes it more difficult"

France and Germany want to hold talks with the US by the end of the year to settle a row over spying, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

It follows claims that her mobile phone and millions of French calls have been monitored by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Mrs Merkel said once seeds of mistrust had been sown, it made co-operation on intelligence more difficult.

The row over alleged spying continues to overshadow an EU summit in Brussels.

On Thursday, the UK's Guardian newspaper reported that it had obtained a confidential memo from the NSA suggesting it had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders.

'We want the truth'

Speaking at the end of the first day of the talks on Thursday, Mrs Merkel said France and Germany wanted to "create a framework" with the US on surveillance.

She stressed that she wanted to look for a basis to move forward with Washington, and that she was looking for deeds, not just apologetic words.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy addresses news conference. 25 Oct 2013 Herman Van Rompuy said other EU countries could join France and Germany in talks with the US

"It's become clear that for the future, something must change - and significantly," Mrs Merkel said.

"We will put all efforts into forging a joint understanding by the end of the year for the co-operation of the (intelligence) agencies between Germany and the US, and France and the US, to create a framework for the co-operation."

At a separate news conference, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said EU leaders "took note of the intention of France and Germany to seek bilateral talks with the US".

Other countries would be "free to join this initiative," he said.

Mr Van Rompuy said intelligence-gathering was a vital weapon against terrorism but it would be prejudiced by "a lack of trust".

Start Quote

We need to re-establish with the US a relationship of trust, which has certainly suffered from this”

End Quote Michael Spindelegger Austrian foreign minister

Other leaders expressed anger at the spying allegations.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said it was "completely unacceptable" to eavesdrop on the leader of an ally, a view echoed by Italian PM Enrico Letta, who added: "We want the truth."

Mrs Merkel has demanded a "complete explanation" of the phone-tapping claims, which emerged in the German media.

But the BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels says that, despite the widespread anger about American spying, Mrs Merkel opposed a suggestion to suspend trade talks with the United States - and on that point, the UK will be relieved.

Mrs Merkel had raised her concerns with US President Barack Obama in a call on Wednesday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney later said Mr Obama had assured Mrs Merkel that her phone was not being listened to now and would not be in the future.

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

French President Francois Hollande has also expressed alarm at reports that French phone calls had been monitored.

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

Italy's weekly L'Espresso has reported that the US and UK have been spying on Italian internet and phone traffic.

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

The Guardian said the NSA memo suggesting it had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders was also sourced to Edward Snowden. The numbers were reportedly supplied by a US government official.

None of the leaders was named, but the memo said "little reportable intelligence'' was obtained.

In another development, two Western diplomats have revealed that US officials briefed them on documents obtained by Edward Snowden that could detail intelligence co-operation between their countries, the AP news agency reported.

The Washington Post earlier reported that some intelligence operations revealed in the documents involve countries not publicly allied to the US.

The Post said that in some cases, one part of the co-operating government may know about the collaboration while others - such as the foreign ministry - may not.

'Please help us'

The EU leaders are now arriving for Friday's summit talks.

They are scheduled to discuss the dilemma posed by migration, which has been brought into sharp focus by the deaths of hundreds of people who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in recent weeks.

The BBC's Matthew Price says immigration is not a priority for EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday

Maria Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, the Italian island where many of the bodies have been brought ashore, was in Brussels on Thursday. She implored EU leaders to help relieve the misery of the migrants and the pressure on the Mediterranean islands.

"Please help us and do not disappoint us," she said.

The European Commission has called for EU countries to offer "additional and urgent contributions" to prevent further tragedies at sea.

The Commission is pressing for:

  • Greater resources to survey and patrol sea routes, through its Frontex operation
  • Increased co-operation with countries of origin and transit, especially Libya
  • The opening of more channels of regular migration
  • Moves to spread migrants more evenly across the EU

Migrant route map

Migration route map

However, national governments point out there are significant obstacles to some of these ambitions - including the lack of a proficient government in Libya.

National leaders are also aware that there is little appetite among their voters to open the doors to more immigrants.

EU sources say the leaders are likely to promise improved co-operation, but not more money or resources. They say they first want to see a new surveillance effort, Eurosur, come into force, to see what effect that has.

The leaders will also discuss relations with Central and European countries, ahead of a November summit at which new agreements will be signed.

The deal with Ukraine is still up in the air, with the EU protesting at the detention of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.



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  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    When can we expect a thank you to Edward Snowden??

    And I doff my cap to the Guardian for having the cojones to print this information.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    It is typical of the EU to jump on something like this and quick to point fingers at the Americans rather than deal with the issues closer to home such as migration. This is why the EU is a disaster and failing, it doesn't get it's priorities right. There's plenty of evidence out there already that suggest the Germans and the French spy on others as much as the USA spys on socialists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    It's the same old argument as with CCTV and identity cards etc. If Merkel and the others haven't done anything wrong they've got nothing to worry about. The USA are just doing the same as every other technologically advanced country, but they got found out. "Let the one without sin cast the first stone".

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    @1 "If she has nothing to hide she has nothing to fear."

    Every single time somebody has to say this.

    Clearly the ones with something to hide are the NSA and CIA, look at the way they treat whistleblowers.

    Anyway it is also irrelevant to the discussion, it is the principle that the US were monitoring her phone in the first place. She will never trust them again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Let us also not forget allegations that the NSA 'manipulated and weakened' a NIST cryptography standard, which could have exposed systems worldwide to malicious attack. Several governments have already banned the strongest encryption. Systems are being exposed to attack so governments can spy. If privacy is outlawed then only outlaws will have privacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    If the leaders of our nations can't be trusted between themselves, then what hope is there for us to trust them for ourselves, within our own borders? Lies, deceit, hypocrisy, flannel, blarney, you name it. All classic hallmarks of the self importance that politicians feel about themselves generally. They couldn't govern a watering session in a brewery, three parts of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    The EU (including the UK) is being completely hypocritical about this - on the one hand they are 'outraged' by U.S. spying on their communications, and yet in the next breath they refuse to grant Snowden asylum, and hence tacitly support him being locked up for espionage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Eavesdroppers never hear good of themselves (so they say)

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    The secret service departments of countries spying on other countries? Shock-horror - whatever next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Considering the furore over this. Along with reading 1984 to see what a totally monitored society would be like. You might also want to watch the film Brazil.

    Buttle/Tuttle ring any bells.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    @46. fuzzy

    quote from #1. fuzzy

    " If she has nothing to hide she has nothing to fear. "

    look like the comment was a genuine sentiment.

    perhaps such intellectual depth is no surprise if the blogger regards any negative reaction as an "insult".

    sensitive as well as shallow.

    such bloggers might counter-accuse Merkel of being sensitive, reactive or shallow.

    perhaps Merkel should use pigeons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Perhaps some scrutiny on the activities of the BND, GCHQ/MI6, Mossad, FSB, DSPD et al may reveal that secret services of most Western countires act outside of domestic, and international law. I wouldn't be surprised if each country's respective secret service agency is completely complicit in activities of US intelligence, and has been for decades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Obama was incompetent from day-one - everything he has done indicates his inability to comprehend even the most insignificant nuances of decent governance - from TBTF TARP QE NSA and now ObamaCare is about to grenade itself & Democrats - all he has done is spend an additional $12T with zilch to show for it - he will be impeached before he finishes his term

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    ' If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear '.

    The problem is who decides what is 'acceptable' ?

    The yanks ?

    The Daily Mail ?

    The Strictly judges ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    "see i can believe that the USA are spying on pretty much the majority of all major nations. However i fail to see why."

    Money. The US has more people working in the military than ever before. It costs vast sums of money. All that spending is processed by private firms with ties to party executives. The chain of folks who gain from a war footing is vast. They spy because it is something to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    To have this article on HYS does anyone care. All governments are at it. The issue making the news is that one has been caught.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    So yesterday we had HYS comments on this story, and today we can comment on it again. Seems pretty pointless.

    Suggests a certain lack of imagination by the editor, or is it a different editor today who didn't bother to look at yesterday's HYS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.


    And the "nothing to hide" argument was apparently first used by Joseph Göbbels, just to put it in context...
    And is still trotted out by our 'leaders' in defense of surveillance. Sometimes irony is hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    21-Yes she could even call me and im sure the americans will be listening in. US govt officials now on a charm offensive saying everyone should have known this was going on. Meanwhile British Govt not making a fuss cos we're complicit or Cameron's grasp of what freedom means only extends to freedom to scapegoat, discriminate and the freedom of the bankers to bring down the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    52. CiderToon
    Pull the other one Merkel! Your intelligence services are probably spying on your 'allies' too.
    It's not Germany that go caught though, so your "probably" doesn't carry much weight. Unless you want to base your opinion on assumption, which is always flimsy.


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