Can espionage kill the US-EU Free Trade Agreement?

Where will you go to talk with your partners about your bottom line position in a negotiation, if you are suspicious of being listened by the other part? This is one of the arguments against negotiating with the US after knowing they systematically and massively spied on their European allies.

Reactions went from irritated to outraged: mentions of “cold war” mentality, “Stasi” surveillance state, “abhorrent” behavior and “break of trust” came from European officials and politicians. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has compared US spying to Cold War tactics. Brussels wants EU facilities checked for American eavesdropping equipment.

Former CIA-analyst Edward Snowden has affected the course of US-EU relations. If the reports published by the weekend by Der Spiegel in Germany and The Guardian in Britain happen to be true, the NSA spied on EU offices and internal computer networks, in addition to millions of phone lines, especially in Germany. Consequences can be huge: talks on a U.S.-EU free trade deal should be frozen until Washington clarifies its activities, several EU policymakers said to Reuters. The first round of negotiations is set to start 8th of July.

For its European partners, the US have crossed a line. This is how Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, put it: “If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable…We are no longer in the Cold War”, said a government spokesman in Berlin.

France is one of the NSA 38 espionage targets. Microphones would have been installed in French Embassy in Washington. Both right and left wing politicians are horrified. “It has to stop immediately,” President François Hollande said on Monday. “We cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies (…) There are enough elements for us to ask for an explanation.”

France’s Socialist Party Secretary General Harlem Désir said it was too early to completely suspend the agreement, but said guaranteeing the privacy of personal information would be a prerequisite for signing. Others are asking for a suspension until things are clarified. French Deputy Jean-Christophe Cambadelis wrote on his professional website on Saturday that “if the revelations about America’s spying of European institutions turns out to be true, the minimum we should do is suspend negotiations on a free trade area.”

About the Author

Ana Fuentes
Columnist for El País and a contributor to SER (Sociedad Española de Radiodifusión), was the first editor-in-chief of The Corner. Currently based in Madrid, she has been a correspondent in New York, Beijing and Paris for several international media outlets such as Prisa Radio, Radio Netherlands or CNN en español. Ana holds a degree in Journalism from the Complutense University in Madrid and the Sorbonne University in Paris, and a Master's in Journalism from Spanish newspaper El País.

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