US spying: Pragmatism tempers EU anger


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

In the end pragmatism out-pointed outrage. France and Germany have opted to talk with the Americans rather than preside over a rupture in transatlantic relations.

That should not disguise a very real sense of betrayal in parts of Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was clearly not placated by her phone call with President Obama. His words had been chosen too carefully and it is widely believed in Germany that one of the chancellor's phones had been monitored in the past.

"Words will not be sufficient," she said, "true change is necessary".

So Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande met at the summit in Brussels and drew up a plan.

They are looking to establish a common framework with the United States over intelligence-gathering by the end of the year.

They want a new set of rules with a "no spying pact" at the core. This would mirror a similar arrangement the US has had with Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand since just after the World War II.

Angela Merkel and Barack Obama in June 2011 Chancellor Merkel's relationship with the president has been damaged by the revelations

It is unclear, however, where lines would be drawn and how enforceable any pact would be.

President Hollande was clear that this was not about weakening ties with America.

"What is at stake," he said, "is preserving our relationship with the US. That should not be changed by what happened, but trust has to be restored."

There is an underlying reality here: Both Germany and France's intelligence services co-operate with the US closely in monitoring countries like Russia, China and Iran, and neither President Hollande nor Chancellor Merkel wants to change that.

The German chancellor was dismissive of suggestions that talks about a free trade deal be postponed until trust between Europe and the US had been restored. She was not prepared to delay a negotiation which promises such rich dividends.

Angela Merkel was asked whether she could trust the British and its intelligence agency GCHQ.

She sidestepped those questions and spoke about allies serving together in conflict without needing to worry about surveillance.

She was also asked whether David Cameron had given assurances that the UK would not spy on its European partners. She implied further discussions were needed, with a view to placing the activities of the intelligence services on a firmer basis.

In the end the summit agreed that "intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism".

But there was a warning that "a lack of trust could prejudice the necessary co-operation in the field of intelligence-gathering".

Spying by its very nature works in the shadows and working out an agreement between Europe and the US will be difficult. In the meantime the reputation of the US in Europe has been damaged by these revelations.

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    #274 Wht

    --Only those who identify themselves with their government´s actions and mentality are questioned (not only USA)

    --some are apparent on this blog.

    -- continue to join in the condemnation --you are supported.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Lets put things into perspective...

    Essentially, Snowden took some 'trade secrets' from one actor.

    The US Administration and cohorts are taking all the 'trade secrets' from everyone.

    ...and people say Snowden is the traitor!

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    The average American is just as shocked and angry to be hearing these things as the average European, I promise you. The surprising thing to me is to read how much pure hatred there appears to be on this board toward every single American, as if we were all somehow identical to the next and each of us NSA insiders. Are all of you Europeans the same as each other? I think the vitriol is not helping

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    "abolish spying - a nice idea"
    A naive idea without first abolishing the need for spying

    Further lines in a tragic tale, the "little Euro rant", the world - for the naive - getting "back to business as usual", as if to go on as "friend and foe" forever

    No sense of limit on population, risk-taking, neglect of shareable morality

    Betrayal of those who gave that we might live to be partners

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    271 QOT

    I agree. As I said earlier, the American people (and presumably us as well) are just as vulnerable. If it's true that Obama was unaware of the Merkel bugging it means that he is no longer in control of the rogue elements infesting American lives

    Off to bed now - have to change the clocks tonight. Do we lose or gain an hour? I can never work it out -:)


  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    #268 MH

    --The problem is not only that governments can lose their ´mental stability´(sanity) but when this spreads to the population (nationalism)

    -- one can see evidence of this with some contributors.

    The first stage has been reached with US and UK governments.

    --the remaining sane citizens of the US and UK must prevent the second.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Presumably now that they have had their little Euro rant for the benefit of the naive the world will get back to business as usual with every one spying frantically on everyone else friend and foe alike.

    Twas ever thus and not even the BBC think you can abolish spying although it would be a nice idea

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    A bloodthirsty region will destroy itself. It is Americas turn.

    Just as the Europeans in WWII

    And the Southeastern Asian nations are doing now. This wont be pretty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    When a nation and its institutions have become corrupt and no longer act within the bounds of decency and legality and possess unlimited powers to observe, record and manipulate every detail of their citizens lives, any act to expose their corrupt workings should be considered patriotic. Manning's actions required bravery


    We shouldn't forget Americans are victims too

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    @264 - The answer lies in a similar question - Has the invention of the knife done us more harm than good?
    Obviously the answer is no but we have to ensure knives are only used for good and not bad.
    The same applies to computers.
    Agencies such as GCHQ and NSA need to be kept under the tight control of elected officials who pay with their jobs and more if those agencies abuse their position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    IHatePolitics @264
    "computer technology
    more harm than good?"

    IF we make of life a war, fought not to 'tame the elements' for each other, but rather to 'get the better' of each other, then advance in weaponry and control systems will serve only to advance our end, for sieuarlu@259 'a spectacular', for people and planet an immeasurable tragedy, of billions little-knowing, of the unborn never to be

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    "GCHQ's internet surveillance programme is the subject of a challenge in the European court of human rights, mounted by three privacy advocacy groups. The Open Rights Group, English PEN and Big Brother Watch argue the "unchecked surveillance" of Tempora is a challenge to the right to privacy, as set out in the European convention on human rights."

    --"We want our Sovereignty back" ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    This spying farce makes me ask another question: is computer technology doing us more harm than good? I don't know the answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    "GCHQ fears a legal challenge under the Human Rights Act if evidence of its surveillance methods becomes admissable in court.

    -- internal documents reveal"

    "The revelations of voluntary co-operation with some telecoms companies...contrast markedly with statements made by large telecoms firms They stressed that they were simply complying with the law of the countries in which they operated"

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    Their companies don't pay tax. They use us. They spy on us. They get us involved in their stupid wars. Why are they our ally again??

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.


    "With General Alexander calling for NSA reporting to be halted, US and UK credibility as guardians of press freedom is crushed"

    Tell us what you know about Turkish atrocities in N. Cyprus and WWI and Turkish police brutality

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.


    "Now Germany is thrust forward as the defender of Freedom in Europe"

    If it is then it should apologise for its role in ramming the Lisbon Treaty down our throats knowing full well that we were promised a referendum and that 82%ish wanted that referendum and that 70% wanted to vote NO!

    Stop destroying Greece etc to "save the Euro"!

    Jobs, lives, trillion+,

    AfD on 5%

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    What could be more humiliating for Europe? It's whole society is being spied upon openly from top to bottom and there isn't a damned thing they can do about it. The US will say nice words and go right back to doing what it has been and everyone knows it. Europe is so weak it has no other choice. What hasn't come out is that the US is spying on Britain too. Wouldn't that be nice icing on the cake?

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    ´As Europe erupts over US spying, NSA chief says government must stop media´

    "With General Alexander calling for NSA reporting to be halted, US and UK credibility as guardians of press freedom is crushed"

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    253 Europe is desperate for a trade agreement with the US, with the US economy picking up, with something to happen to slow its slide down the slippery slope over the precipice. We've got 'em where we want 'em. Will we press our advantage? By keeping the Euro strong against the US dollar that's making their lives miserable. Keep up the good work and good luck to our new Fed Chair Janet Yellen.


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