As expected, the US spying row took centre stage at the European Summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that “once the seeds of mistrust have been sown, it doesn’t facilitate our cooperation; it makes it more difficult”.
Relations between the United States and its key European allies seem to have come to a head after the German chancellor, who is famously reliant on her cell phone, claimed that her conversations were being tapped.
The implications for transatlantic relations would be “really bad” if the US continued to eavesdrop on Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone conversations, warned German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere.
Merkel herself said she was looking for a basis to move forward with Washington. The Chancellor said she was looking for deeds rather than words and mere apologies would not suffice.
Clearly, neither assurances from White House Spokesperson Jay Carney nor the recent phone conversation with US President Barack Obama were enough to convince the German head of state. Perhaps it was because Washington failed to clarify whether it had monitored her chancellor’s past phone conversations.
"It's become clear that for the future, something must change - and significantly," Merkel said.
It also added fuel to the fire French President Francois Hollande was trying to ignite. Both he and his country’s prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, were outraged over reports that thousands of French phone records had been collected by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The Germans and the French, who wanted the US spying allegations to be included on the agenda of the summit, are now demanding talks with Washington over the issue.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, during a news conference, said that the EU leaders had taken “note of the intention of France and Germany to seek bilateral talks with the US". He added that other countries would be free to join the initiative.
He maintained that while intelligence was a vital tool to combat terrorism, it could suffer from prejudice if there was a lack of trust.
"We will put all efforts into forging a joint understanding by the end of the year for the co-operation of the (intelligence) agencies between Germany and the US, and France and the US, to create a framework for the co-operation."
The NSA monitored as many as 35 phones of world leaders, reported UK publication The Guardian. It used Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor who disclosed classified details of US and British mass surveillance programs, as it source.
The European Commission is among those wanting to see the Americans held accountable for their spying activity. "The most recent spying scandals show: Data protection must apply to everyone - whether we are taking about citizens' emails or Angela Merkel's mobile phone," said Viviane Reding, the EU's justice commissioner.
The French, meanwhile, are backing proposals for EU data protection laws on US companies.
Supported by the European Parliament, the commission tabled legislation to punish companies, whether American or not, for sharing information with the US intelligence services by imposing massive fines of up to 5 percent of their global revenue.
So whether its Merkel, Hollande or the common man on the street in Europe, everyone will be careful over the conversations they have on the phone; be it whispering sweet nothings to a loved one or a matter of global significance.