- (Photo: Reuters/Yves Herman)
A common statement by leaders of European Union nations, including Britain, warned Friday that U.S. spying on their governments could jeopardize their joint fight against terrorism, and Germany and France called for a new transatlantic rules on intelligence and security service behavior.
"The Heads of State or Government discussed recent developments concerning possible intelligence issues and the deep concerns that these events have raised among European citizens," noted the EU in a statement signed at an E.U. summit in Brussels on Friday.
The European concern follows more revelations by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, allegations of U.S. spying in France and tapping of the personal phone of German chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's charge that Britain intercepted secret Italian communications and passed them to the NSA.
They EU leaders "underlined the close relationship between Europe and the USA and the value of that partnership," expressing their "conviction that the partnership must be based on respect and trust, including as concerns the work and cooperation of secret services."
Intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism, the leaders stressed. "This applies to relations between European countries as well as to relations with the USA," the said. "A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering."
"We need trust among allies and partners," The Guardian quoted Merkel as saying. "Such trust now has to be built anew … The United States of America and Europe face common challenges. We are allies. But such an alliance can only be built on trust."
Germany and France also demanded that the United States sign a "code of conduct" with EU countries to check American intelligence services from spying on them, The Telegraph reported, adding that Cameron was forced by 27 other European leaders to sign the common statement.
The other leaders were angry with Cameron for his failure to denounce the revelation that Merkel's phone was tapped.
Meanwhile, French President François Hollande proposed a new code of conduct between E.U.'s national intelligence services, asking if Britain, too, would choose to be part of it. "We need a code of good conduct to be adopted by the Europeans and we ourselves have to be clear that we should not do what we don't want others to do," Hollande was quoted as saying.
Merkel called President Barack Obama during the week to demand immediate clarification on whether the U.S. government has been monitoring her phone, saying that if proven true, such an offense would be a "grave breach of trust."
"She made clear that she views such practices, if proven true, as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally," said a statement by Merkel's spokesman. "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."
However, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama has told Merkel that the U.S. is not monitoring her mobile phone.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has claimed that the government's phone record collection program isn't "surveillance."
Snowden has refuted Feinstein's claim. "In the last four months, we've learned a lot about our government," Snowden, who is wanted in the U.S. for allegedly stealing government property and violating the Espionage Act of 1917, said in a statement to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Thursday.
"We've learned that the U.S. intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA's hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They're wrong," added Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum in Russia on Aug. 1.
Snowden, who worked for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, fled to Hong Kong on May 20 and later shared top-secret U.S. surveillance programs with the media, before moving to Russia.