EU says distrust of US on spying may harm terror fight


French President Francois Hollande on the aims of the initiative

EU leaders meeting in Brussels said distrust of the US over spying could harm the fight against terrorism.

A statement agreed by the leaders said that "a lack of trust could prejudice" intelligence-gathering co-operation.

German spy chiefs are travelling to Washington next week to press for action over the alleged monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

Both Germany and France want talks with the US to find a new "understanding" by the end of the year.

As well as the bugging of Mrs Merkel's phone, there are claims the US National Security Agency (NSA) has monitored millions of telephone calls by both German and French citizens.

Spain on Friday followed Germany and France in summoning the US ambassador to explain reports of spying on the country.

Start Quote

In the end, pragmatism out-pointed outrage... but that should not disguise a very real sense of betrayal in parts of Europe”

End Quote

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

The latest revelations have been sourced to US whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who fled the country earlier this year and is now in Russia.

US state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said a review of US intelligence gathering, called for by President Obama, would look at how it affects foreign policy.

The "high level group of outside experts... will consider as part of this how we can maintain the public's trust, how the surveillance impacts our foreign policy, particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public," she said.

'Vital element'

The EU leaders' statement, released earlier on Friday, reflected their conclusions following talks on Thursday.

It said the recent intelligence issues had raised "deep concerns" among European citizens.

The statement said the leaders "underlined the close relationship between Europe and the USA and the value of that partnership".

David Cameron says he supports France and Germany in seeking talks with US over spying

"[The leaders] stressed that intelligence-gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism," it continued.

And it went on: "A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence-gathering."

"The heads of state or government took note of the intention of France and Germany to seek bilateral talks with the USA with the aim of finding before the end of the year an understanding on mutual relations in that field," the leaders' statement also said.

"They noted that other EU countries are welcome to join this initiative."

French President Francois Hollande said the aim of the initiative "is about knowing about the past and setting a framework for the future and putting an end to monitoring mechanisms that are not controlled".

'Five Eyes' agreement

  • Initially a top-secret deal signed between the US and UK in March 1946
  • It committed both nations to sharing communications intelligence, continuing the practices of WWII
  • Later referred to as the "UKUSA Agreement", it formed the basis for intelligence co-operation
  • The agreement was later extended to cover Canada, Australia and New Zealand
  • Other countries also reported to have joined the community
  • The full text of the initial agreement was released by Britain's National Archives in 2005

Germany and France said they are proposing talks with the US to settle the row by the end of the year. But Mrs Merkel stressed Berlin and Paris would be making their own separate approaches to Washington.

BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt says the French and Germans are looking for a new set of rules with a "no spying pact" at the core.

He says this would mirror an arrangement the United States has had with Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada since just after World War II. That secret intelligence-sharing operation is known as Five Eyes.

Mrs Merkel said she did not know the exact details of the Five Eyes arrangement so could not say whether that is exactly what Germany is seeking, but added: "We need something clear-cut, in line with the spirit of an alliance".

UK Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged the UK's "unique partnership" with the US regarding security but said: "I understand what others want to do and support that, as I think does President Obama".

When asked by the BBC if the US had ever monitored Mr Cameron's phone, White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said: "His communications have not, are not and will not be monitored by the US."

'Look to the future'

The spying revelations have overshadowed other issues at the EU summit in Brussels, including the Mediterranean migration problem, which framed the agenda of Friday's talks.

Italian authorities said they had intercepted some 800 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean as the EU leaders prepared to meet.

A number leaders indicated their support for the French and German position.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo said: "The objective must remain the same - to fight against terrorism but also respect privacy.

"Everyone can understand the need for exceptional measures given the danger of terrorism... but we are not in the position where we should spy on each other."

Swedish PM 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."

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

Other leaders signalled the need to move on.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said: "The main thing is that we look to the future. The trans-Atlantic partnership was, and is, important."

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.



This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    So Snowden trades the West's secrets to live a pampered life in a country with abysmal human rights record and his followers raise him to a god like status when he should be tried and jailed for his treachery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    @457. Kurtinco

    "...China's spying program continues..."

    [couldn't settle on a country]'s human rights abuses continue unabated too... Shall we ramp up our own program so as not to get left behind!? [sarcasm - no need to answer]

    I don't think there'd be this much fuss from anyone (including china) if the UK and US were spying on Chinese people and businesses, instead of theirs and their allies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    I was talking for years that TRUST, LOYALTY and RESPECT are 2 way street; if you lost it it is difficult to get it back...

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    my computer BBC ----> HYS ---> BBC ID -- >GHCHQ ----> NSA

    my profile

    my life

    welcome 1984 .....

    btw we already know this happens any way .....

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    [Germany]" is respected and trusted on the world stage."

    Have been to Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Spain lately and asked their citizens how much they respect Germany and, to boot, trust it?

    You obviously haven't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Pretty much every commentator on both sides agrees this is all for show because everyone knows that everyone is doing it to everyone else! They can't have missed today's comment from Madeline Albright that she knew the French were monitoring her calls because the French Ambassador asked her about one of them!!
    I would think any world leader NOT being bugged would feel very left out and unimportant

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    Unfortunately the blind acceptance of mobile/internet technology without a thought of the consequences to our personal freedom means the very powerful now have unlimited access to our every day lives.

    Whether you have nothing to hide or not, do you trust them to use this information wisely or to manipulate for their own ends? I fear its the latter,

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    462. nowhere-zero

    I think your google must be broken, or you didn't really check...


    Nah, I think there is something wrong with your information. Well, it can't be verified, so it's as if you never provided it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    "EU says distrust of US on spying may harm terror fight"

    If the EU's leaders can't set aside their annoynace (after a little self-indulgent political grandstanding of course) over the U.S. getting caught doing something they all do but just don't talk about then they're not serious about fighting terrorism in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    This reminds me of a very public game of charades......
    What world leader or member of the public ever thought ease dropping on "friends"was a no go area for any countries security services?
    Intelligence is intelligence,information is information,our job to gather it,yours to use if and when required.
    Our job isn't to 2nd guess what you might or will need,simply to have it if required.The End

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    @446 oxygen_thief

    When was the last independant prime minister?

    Local independant MP's yes, with little clout in main stream politics.

    For me to achieve anything I would need to join one of these 3 parties, agree with everything I am told by the old guard and brown nose my way up to be considered leader of that party. Any sign of having my own agenda will mean my immediate removal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    "Are you seriously claiming that your governments have not spied on your own allies, Including us?"
    Why bother spying on Yanks we know they are MAD already
    We got better things to do than be paranoid creeps like them

    Not everyone is as screwed up as American brethren from Maryland

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    452.Dun Geonson
    7 Minutes ago
    415. nowhere-zero

    Just google it, lazy bones.


    I did. Couldn't find it, so it would be easier if you just provided your source.
    Try france24, der Spiegel, or switch on bbc R4.

    I think your google must be broken, or you didn't really check...

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Don't forget, there would be no outrage if it was just ordinary citizens being spied upon. When it's politicians then it's a different matter, for they are so much better and important than us, not to mention honourable and trustworthy.

    My heart bleeds for them... pah.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    358 - of course I can't! But just because no-one can provide evidence a US president's calls aren't being bugged by some foreign power doesn't mean it's not happening. Just that those foreign powers have far greater control than the US about what gets into the public arena. Surely you're not going to suggest that other countries' security services aren't capable of matching the work done by US?

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    As an American I have to quite frankly ask every European this question...

    Are you seriously claiming that your governments have not spied on your own allies, Including us?

    Please don't insult everyone's intelligence by responding with a highly disingenuous "of course not!" because the fact is in the West we all have a continuing history of doing just that..

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    NSA with all Intel agencies eavesdrop ...

    for security economic gain, industrial espionage spying though can be counter productive

    NSA spied on Petrobras Brazil's state oil giant.

    Brazil's biggest oilfield auction-"won"by a consortium led by state-run Petrobras & backed by Total France,Shell - Royal Dutch & Chinese firms.

    surprising BP did not win contract... or any US owned company..

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Meanwhile, China's spying program goes unabated while euro whinners focus on the only thing they seem to have a spine about, expressing their anti-American sentiment, or should I say, exposing their runt complex ever since the USA has been stuck mopping up centuries worth of European messes all over the world

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    In other words it's OK for the USA to poke it's nose in where it isn't wanted or needed. It's also interesting that terrorism is the key to any country doing as they please with total disrespect for it's own or other country's citizens. George Orwell was only a few years out with 19884. All credit to the guy!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Re "#86" We may now get answers about these illegal practices in the UK thanks to Germany and France

    Because German BND does not do it, and France doesn't spy on US, etc. Right? ;-)

    Countries which joined UKUSA and ECHELON (Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, UK) don't have that problem because they all contribute to a pool and all mutually benefit from it.


Page 13 of 36


More Europe stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.