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'Good friends'

Interview: Gero Schliess / sadNovember 7, 2013

When former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaks, people listen. In a DW interview Albright says she's optimistic that Europe and the US can rebuild trust "without hypocrisy," despite the NSA spying scandal.

Madelaine Albright in Prague Botanical Garden (CTK Photo/Vit Simanek)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The US National Security Agency's spying has threatened trust between the US and Europe. Madeleine Albright was among high-ranking politicians who discussed rebuilding trust at talks in Washington sponsored by the Munich Security Conference (headed by the former German ambassador to the US, Wolfgang Ischinger). DW correspondent Gero Schliess spoke with her there.

DW: Transatlantic relations have reached a low point not seen since the Iraq War. What is your view on this?

Madeleine Albright: I think it's very unfortunate. I have always been a great believer in the Euro-Atlantic relationship. We are natural partners, we need each other, and I hope very much that all contacts and relationships can be restored. We, after all, have a history of trusting each other, so I am always optimistic about that.

Were you surprised about the extent of surveillance, and did you know about it while you were in office?

I did not. But the bottom line is that we do know countries spy on each other; that is not something new. It is done neutrally.

Name "Angela Merkel" on an iPhone screen (Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa)
The NSA is believed to have tapped Merkel's mobile phoneImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Do you understand the uproar in Europe about the US, and about the Obama administration?

No, I don't, really. I think a lot of it has to do with technology and frankly, I know that many things are done for political reasons. I was in Brussels not long ago, and I think that this is an issue generally about what the rules of privacy are in this new technological era. I would hope very much that we could have a careful discussion on all of this to mutually arrive at some kind of solution.

What are your recommendations for both governments - for the Obama administration and for Angela Merkel - to restore trust?

We have many issues that we have to work on together. Obviously, some of it is personal. But we have a very large agenda together. So I am sure this will work out. But I really do think it's important that there is no hypocrisy. There has to be an understanding that we are in a new technological era and that good friends can work this out.

Do you think Europe should suspend agreements with the US, like the SWIFT banking agreement, or that they should interrupt negotiations on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP?

I definitely do not. I think these are issues that have a whole other set of circumstances that go with them - and they are good for everybody. The TTIP is going to be a very important agreement for the Europeans and for the United States.

Barack Obama and Angela Merkel in Berlin. (Photo: Marcus Brandt/dpa)
Some personal bonds may have to be mended, as wellImage: picture-alliance/dpa

In this case, should there be a signal from President Obama, maybe a public apology?

I'm not going to comment on this. I think that President Obama has made many statements on this already.

Madeleine Albright was secretary of state in President Bill Clinton's first administration from 1997-2001. She is currently a professor of international relations at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington.