Merkel says NSA revelations put a burden on transatlantic trade talks

German university proposes honorary doctorate for Edward Snowden

Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves a debate about the surveillance activities of the US National Security Agency. Photograph: Reuters/Thomas Peter

Chancellor Angela Merkel leaves a debate about the surveillance activities of the US National Security Agency. Photograph: Reuters/Thomas Peter


hancellor Angela Merkel has admitted that allegations of spying by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) on European telecommunications – including her mobile phone – have put “to the test” transatlantic relations between Berlin and Washington.

The German leader is opposed to letting NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden travel to Berlin to testify before a Bundestag inquiry, as he proposed in a letter to her. Instead the German leader, in her strongest remarks yet on the scandal, called into question the future of talks on a transatlantic free trade agreement if Washington failed to provide explanations – and soon.

‘Grave’ accusations
“The accusations are grave, they must be explained and, more important still for the future, new trust must be built up,” she told the Bundestag.

“Without doubt the transatlantic relationship and negotiations for a free trade agreement are being put to the test at present by the accusations against the US and the collection of millions of data.”

However, she insisted that Berlin’s relationship with Washington “remains a fundamental guarantor for our freedom and our security”.

During a lively Bundestag debate a German Green MP who met Mr Snowden in Moscow called on Dr Merkel to thank him publicly for exposing the tapping of her phone.

“Would that not be a human gesture?” asked Hans-Christian Ströbele, a Berlin MP. He said it was the publicity that forced the US to promise not to tap her phone calls in future.

Meanwhile, Germany’s acting interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, attacked the continuing US silence on the NSA allegations, adding that the “communication policies of our American friends sadly leave a lot to be desired”.

“This silence is leading to lots of conspiracy theories,” said Mr Friedrich. In August he announced the German investigation into the NSA spy scandal was closed and accused NSA critics of being motivated by anti-American prejudice.

‘Scaredy-cat’ approach
Germany’s opposition Left Party accused Dr Merkel of taking a “scaredy-cat” approach with Washington.

“Germany is only sovereign when it gives Mr Snowden a hearing, protects him, grants him asylum and organises a secure stay,” said Mr Gregor Gysi, Bundestag floor leader.

No parliamentary inquiry can be established until Germany has a new federal government – not likely for at least another month. The Greens and Left Party are anxious for the German government to grant Mr Snowden asylum to testify in Berlin. However, this is looking increasingly unlikely.

Instead, committee members may travel to meet Mr Snowden in Moscow. Without an offer of asylum in Germany, however, it is not clear whether Mr Snowden will share any information with the MPs.

Yesterday the Left Party suggested Germany nominate Mr Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize, while the University of Rostock has proposed awarding him an honorary doctorate for “dedicating himself” to exposing truth.

“We are impressed with his civic courage and civil disobedience,” said Dr Hans-Jürgen Wensierski, a philosophy professor, comparing him to civil rights campaigners Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.

“Moral courage is a central theme in research and teaching of the social sciences and humanities,” he added.