US spying allegations set to dominate EU summit
Kenny condemns ‘appalling’ alleged bugging of German leader’s phone calls
Allegations that the US government spied on European countries, including reports that the US bugged chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, are expected dominate today’s meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.
The German foreign minister has summoned the US ambassador to Berlin today to discuss the issue.
The disclosures last night that the chancellor’s phone was allegedly tapped has provoked furious reactions from Germany and France and has pushed the issue up the agenda at today’s meeting.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described the alleged bugging of Dr Merkel’s phone by US intelligence services as “appalling”.
“I happen to be the Taoiseach of a small country, I think it’s an appalling situation if that were to be true,” he said.
However, Mr Kenny later quipped: “I always operate on the basis that the calls I’m making are all listened to.”
Mr Kenny will meet Dr Merkel later today at a European People’s Party meeting, the political grouping of centre-right parties which includes Fine Gael, which takes place just outside Brussels today ahead of this evening’s summit of EU leaders.
“Among close friends and partners, as the Federal Republic of Germany and the US have been for decades, there should be no such monitoring of the communications of a head of government,” the German government said.
French Commissioner Michel Barnier said this morning that confidence in the US has been shaken.
France had already pushed to put the surveillance issue on the agenda of today’s summit, following allegations earlier this year that the NSA had collected thousands of French phone records between December 2012 and January 2013. But the disclosures that emerged last night have now shifted the focus to the issue of data protection.
Dr Merkel called president Barack Obama last night to demand immediate clarification and told him if such surveillance had taken place it amounted to a “grave breach of trust”.
Dr Merkel’s spokesman said last night that Berlin had received information that her mobile phone had been tapped for years by US intelligence services.
The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats said this morning that the issue threatened to undermine ongoing EU-US trade talks.
Dr Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert confirmed the German leader had telephoned Mr Obama last night seeking clarification.
“She made clear she condemns and views such practices as completely unacceptable, if the information turns out to be true,” said Mr Seibert in a statement.
The German leader told Mr Obama she expected full answers about this and other allegations of US eavesdropping in Europe.
The German leader is a passionate mobile phone user, governing by text message and signing all her missives “am”. She uses an encrypted mobile phone, although it is unlikely that many of her call and text recipients do not.
Just four months ago, Mr Obama defended US anti-terrorism tactics on a visit to Berlin, telling Germans at a news conference with Dr Merkel that Washington was not spying on ordinary citizens.
Revelations before the trip of a covert US internet surveillance programme, code-named Prism, caused outrage in a country where memories of the eavesdropping East German Stasi secret police are still fresh.
Additional reporting: Reuters