Allegations against the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) for spying are likely to overshadow talks at the latest European Union (EU) summit in Brussels. This development comes just a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel called President Barack Obama over claims that her phone had been monitored.
Merkel has called on the US to officially clarify the extent of their surveillance in Germany, while French President Francois Hollande is pressing for Washington’s suspected spying to be put on the agenda of the summit.
Meanwhile, the German press is outraged over the issue. The Suddeutscher Zeitung, one of the most respected publications in Germany, equates the US spying on Merkel to an attack on her “political heart”. A front-page commentary in the newspaper makes a reference to the “biggest affront”.
The exchange between Washington and Berlin over the US spying issue has been less than cordial. President Obama’s spokesperson Jay Carney assured the German chancellor that her communications were not being monitored. Washington, however, failed to clarify whether it eavesdropped on her past conversations. Needless to say, Merkel was not satisfied and demanded an “immediate and comprehensive” clarification of US practices.
“Such practices are completely unacceptable,” said her spokesperson.
"She made clear that she views such practices, if proven true, as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally," an official statement read.
"Between close friends and partners, as Germany and the U.S. have been for decades, there should not be such monitoring of the communications of a government leader. This would be a grave breach of trust. Such practices should be immediately stopped," the statement added.
Meanwhile, the French are also gnashing their teeth over reports that the NSA recorded 70.3 million items of French telephone data between December, last year, and January 8, 2013. The US was also suspected of collecting tens of thousands of French phone records.
"President Francois Hollande has asked that the topic be added to the summit agenda. It is not only a French question but a European one," French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told his parliament on Tuesday. "We need to protect ourselves and must demand that new rules are put in place."
The US Ambassador had also been summoned by the French government in the recent past to discuss the allegations, while Obama spoke to Hollande over the phone. The American president acknowledged the “legitimate questions of our friends and allies’ over the manner in which these capabilities are employed".