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Europe seeks talks over NSA row

October 25, 2013

France and Germany have called for talks to agree on new rules for intelligence relations with Washington. The call follows allegations that the US spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) talks with France's President Francois Hollande (R) at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels October 24, 2013. German and French accusations that the United States has run spying operations in their countries, including possibly bugging Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone, are likely to dominate a meeting of EU leaders starting on Thursday. The two-day Brussels summit, called to tackle a range of social and economic issues, will now be overshadowed by debate on how to respond to the alleged espionage by Washington against two of its closest European Union allies. REUTERS/Yves Herman (BELGIUM - Tags: POLITICS)
Image: Reuters

Merkel: Trust must be rebuilt

Following the first night of European Union summit talks, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said the bloc's 28 leaders "took note of the intention of France and Germany to seek bilateral talks with the United States" on what their secret services should and cannot do.

The demand from Berlin and Paris follows reports that the US spied on German Chancellor Merkel's cell phone. The reports are only the most recent to emerge from information divulged by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden about the extent of a US spy program run by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Anger has also been registered outside Europe in Brazil and Mexico where revelations of alleged US snooping have caused a diplomatic headache for the US.

Van Rompuy said the call for talks comes "with the aim of finding before the end of the year an understanding on mutual relations in that field." He also stressed that any new understanding applies to “relations between European countries as well as to relations with the US.”

French President Francois Hollande told reporters that a special European cell was already set up to deal with the wave of snooping disclosures.

These experts have to "accelerate their work with our American allies", he said, adding that this issue is not going away and that there will be more revelations in the future. Earlier this week, the French newspaper Le Monde published an article claiming that Washington had monitored about 70 million phone calls inside France.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel told a separate press conference that despite the ongoing snooping scandal she did not agree with suggestions the EU should suspend flagship free-trade talks with Washington.

However, Merkel had strong words in response to the spying allegations. She spoke to Obama on Wednesday after receiving information her cell phone may have been monitored. The allegations first arose on the website of the news magazine Spiegel.

As she arrived for the two-day EU summit she told reporters, "Spying between friends is simply unacceptable… We need trust between partners and such trust needs to be re-established.”

Merkel added that the allegations, if proven, would constitute a serious breach of trust.

"We are allies facing challenges together. But such an alliance can only be built on the basis of trust. I repeat that spying among friends is not at all acceptable against anyone and that goes for every citizen in Germany."

hc/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)