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 -:)



Comments 5 of 276


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