France tells US to stop spying ‘immediately’
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French President François Hollande on Monday issued a sharp rebuke to the Obama administration over alleged US spying on EU diplomats, calling for an immediate end to the surveillance amid warnings that it could affect US-EU trade talks.
In the strongest reaction yet to allegations of US eavesdropping on EU diplomats, French President François Hollande on Monday demanded an immediate halt to the surveillance and issued a veiled threat that the “unacceptable” spying could jeopardise US-EU free trade talks.
"We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies," Hollande told journalists during a visit to the western French city of Lorient on Monday.
"We ask that this immediately stop," Hollande added. "There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union."
Hollande’s rebuke came a day after German weekly magazine Der Spiegel published a report alleging that the NSA (National Security Agency) bugged EU offices and computer networks.
Citing documents leaked by former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden, the Der Spiegel report revealed that the NSA had tapped EU offices in Brussels and gained access to EU internal computer networks, as well as bugged diplomatic offices in Washington and at the UN headquarters in New York.
It also claimed that the US secret service had access to around half-a- billion phone calls, emails and text messages within Germany in a given month.
‘We're not in the Cold War anymore.'
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.
“Eavesdropping on friends is unacceptable,'' German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday. “We're not in the Cold War anymore.''
Germany has been among the European countries most anxious to reach a trade deal with the US, and it will likely try to strike a careful balance in its criticism of Washington.
France and Germany have summoned the US ambassador in their respective capitals to explain the spying allegations.
Obama administration goes into damage-control mode
Faced with a serious transatlantic crisis of confidence, the Obama administration has attempted to downplay the allegations.
Responding to questions during a trip to Tanzania on Monday, US President Barack Obama said that while his administration was still evaluating the article alleging US spying, he promised that the US would provide all the information that European governments were seeking regarding the allegations.
Earlier Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he didn't know the details of the allegations, but he noted that many nations used similar techniques.
"Every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contributes to that,” said Kerry.
"And all I know is that is not unusual for lots of nations. But beyond that I'm not going to comment any further until I have all the facts and find out precisely what the situation is," he added.
French political parties call for political asylum for Snowden
But Kerry’s statement failed to placate French political parties, with the Green Party calling on France to grant US whistleblower Snowden political asylum.
In a rare show of unity across ideological and party lines, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far right National Front, also said France had a duty to take Snowden under its wing.
The latest allegations could harden opposition to US-EU free trade talks in France, a country that is far less eager for a transatlantic trade and investment partnership than Germany.
While most economists say the spying allegations were unlikely to affect the complex, long drawn-out talks, some German politicians have called for a re-examination of existing US-EU agreements.
On Monday, Germany’s Green Party also called on the government to offer Snowden asylum.
"Someone like that should be protected," said Juergen Trittin, leader of Germany's Greens.
"He should get safe haven here in Europe because he has done us a service by revealing a massive attack on European citizens and companies. Germany, as part of Europe, could do that."