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.

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

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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.



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  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    Lets face it, Germany started the 2 biggest wars the world has ever known within the last 100 years. They are friends now but maybe someone thought that in 1930 as well.

    Always good to keep an eye on your friends as well as your enemies, I just hope we are doing it as well as the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    508. sieuarlu

    502"He didn't really have any other option"

    He had the option of silence fulfilling his oath to protect and defend the USA. Instead he became a traitor.
    Sorry, I thought freedom was written in your constitution? So exposing misuse of power, by definition IS defending the US.

    By immediately branding him a traitor (without thinking) the US handed him to the Russians on a plate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    You guys must be over George Bush by now. You have something new to complain about with the U.S. All of those who hated Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher are probably dead by now, too. Onward to some new torment for everyone!

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    Reading the pro-US comments here is pretty depressing. We Brits are so politically naive and ill-informed. Actually what do you expect from a nation that still has a massively public-financed Monarchy? Politically speaking we are so woefully unsophisticated

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    @525 Someonewhocares

    Ask David Kelly that.

    Oh sorry you can't. His autopsy report has been classified for 75 years.


    Wouldn't be so bad if they did use this on criminals.
    Except they don't.

    With back doors into bank accounts, why haven't they drained the bank accounts of drug lords ect?

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    525. Someonewhocares

    The same thing that can happen to anybody who has their private and personal data is intercepted, with the added bonus that your "secure SSL" encrypted credit card information can be effortlessly decrypted. Blackmail is a strong political card.

    These agencies fall down to the integrity of individuals and from past experience, you shouldn't trust the faceless ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    @508. No buddy, not a traitor, a hero. And the US is "not harmed"? Bwahahaa yeah, right :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    We not allies we never were If were allies we wouldn’t have to spy on each other Every country has its own cupboard of skeletons Termed as classified With the net in place you no longer have any real secrets so if the world had no secrets there wouldn’t be any need to spy Since the world always will keep secrets of which will be use to detsroy people The worlds continue to spy THE ART OF WAR

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    @501. voiceofreason

    US suffered 9/11 from Saudi nationals, Al Qaeda members are drawn from fundamentalist Sunni Muslims funded from Saudi Arabia.

    Guess what? US are cosy chummy with Saudi govt for oil contracts, instead of bombing Saudi Arabia they used 9/11 as an excuse to attack Saddam, who was incidentally running a secular govt & was anti-Al Qaeda.

    US is responsible for all its predicament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    What is the worst that can happen to innocent people? Nothing.

    People who download filth or whatever, they are the ones who need worry when they are taken into court to face charges of theft.
    Remember the film MATRIX? When Mr Anderson gets pulled in by Mr Smith and there is a fat file with all his history? Goodbye.
    If your guilty i would worry, stop you posting here would be a bonus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    Security services spy on people - shock horror.I'd be worried if they didn't.Merkel is a poser - its all about negotiation.Nothing happening here - move along please sir'madam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    Long live Edward Snowden!!!
    May he be enjoying Russian women and vodka :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    O how I love this great "society" opinion that everyone should be disgusted with anyone spying on you. Yes we are free people, but freedom comes at a cost. I hope that the British intel agencies are spying on everyone, I mean have you all for got the London 7/7 bombings. I travel daily on LU and I feel safer knowing that the MI5 is doing everything in its power to keep it safe

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    498. Peter Berman

    Why hasn't David Cameron the guts to condemn what has been done?
    Because he's just as spineless as Tony Blair over this one way 'special relationship' thing. Remember Gary McKinnon?

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    Oh, honestly! What a palaver about nothing. Every nation spies on every nation. It's called "The Great Game"; the only crime here is getting found out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.


    I hope the last remark was tongue in cheek?! Cameron (wrong vowel between m&r..) is to concerned with being the US lapdog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    "But I am an intelligent American and for years, I already knew that my privacy had long been a myth. Only journalists can still claim that right in the US."

    Complacent. Ill informed.

    You will of course be able to point to the way Western governments have explained to their citizens at election time that they have handed over every concievable piece of personal information to IT idiots

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    Most of the major continental European nations had a clear-out of the their respective Establishments after the WW2 and consequently were put on a more health democratic footing. The UK, however has continued with the same privileged power elite in place. Thank heavens France and Germany are now embroiled in this scandal, otherwise we Brits would be none the wiser

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    Why be surprised that spy agencies are, er, spying?

    Outraged of course, when you actually catch them at it, but surprised that they are doing so? No, this is how the Great Game is played, whether you play it for money, ideology, country or the excitement of the game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    American paranoia bespeaks some admirable self-insight. They know their behaviour was and is abominable and they assume others feel the way they would, had US been the victim. But they are so isolated and have been for so long they've lost contact and connection and get the values and attitudes projected on others wrong. Their fundamental values are unrecognisable vis a vis their founding ideals.


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