France demands answers after US spying allegations
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France has joined a chorus of European nations clamouring for the US to explain a report published by German magazine "Der Spiegel" this weekend alleging that the National Security Agency bugged EU offices, diplomatic missions and computer networks.
France has demanded the US explain a report published by German magazine Der Spiegel alleging that the National Security Agency (NSA) bugged European Union offices and computer networks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.
The incendiary article, published on Der Spiegel’s website Saturday, cited documents reportedly leaked by former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden revealing that the NSA had tapped EU offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, as well as bugged diplomatic offices in Washington and at the UN headquarters in New York.
In a follow-up report on Sunday, Der Spiegel claimed that the US secret service has access to half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages within Germany in a given month, and has classified the country, which is one of its closest European allies, as a target similar to China.
The latest reports of alleged US surveillance have triggered a chorus of outrage across Europe, with several countries demanding that the United States explain itself.
“These acts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable,” Fabius said in a statement on Sunday. “We expect the American authorities to answer the legitimate concerns raised by these press revelations as quickly as possible.”
President François Hollande told the United States on Monday to “immediately stop” spying on European institutions.
"We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies," Hollande told journalists during a visit to the northwestern French city of Lorient. "We ask that this immediately stop."
Germany also voiced concern over the allegations on Sunday, with Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger invoking memories of the distrust and deceit of the Cold War.
“If the media reports are correct, this brings to memory actions among enemies during the Cold War. It goes beyond any imagination that our friends in the United States view the Europeans as enemies,” Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.
“If it is true that EU representations in Brussels and Washington were indeed tapped by the American secret service, it can hardly be explained with the argument of fighting terrorism,” she said in a statement.
Germans are particularly sensitive about government monitoring, having lived through the Stasi secret police in the former communist East Germany and with lingering memories of the Gestapo of Hitler’s Nazi regime.
On Saturday, Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament and also a German, said that if the report was correct, it would have a “severe impact” on relations between the EU and the United States.
“On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations,” he said in an emailed statement.
Free trade talks
The European Union also demanded an explanation from the US on Sunday, which is one of the bloc’s closest trading partners.
“We have immediately been in contact with the US authorities in Washington D.C. and in Brussels and have confronted them with the press reports,” a European Commission spokesperson said.
“They have told us they are checking on the accuracy of the information released yesterday and will come back to us,” she added in a statement.
Some policymakers said talks for a free trade agreement between Washington and the EU should be put on ice until further clarification from the United States.
“Partners do not spy on each other,” the European commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, Viviane Reding, said at a public event in Luxembourg on Sunday.
“We cannot negotiate over a big transatlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators,” Reding said in comments passed on to reporters by her spokeswoman.
The European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee head Elmar Brok, from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. echoed those views.
“The spying has taken on dimensions that I would never have thought possible from a democratic state,” he told Der Spiegel.
“How should we still negotiate if we must fear that our negotiating position is being listened to beforehand?”
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
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