Allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency is spying on its European allies could threaten an upcoming trade agreement considered worth tens of billions of dollars for the European Union and U.S. economies.
On June 29, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine published a piece claiming the publication had obtained documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden indicating the U.S. was conducting surveillance on key European Union institutions.
Der Spiegel claimed the documents indicated the U.S. had bugged the European Union headquarters in Washington. D.C., along with other key European institutions.
The news doesn’t sit well with European Union member states, particularly in the leadup to EU-U.S. trade agreement negotiations set to take place July 8.
The proposed trade agreement is seen as one that would bolster the economies of the EU and U.S. At last month’s G-8 Summit in Ireland, British Prime Minister David Cameron indicated the agreement could boost the EU economy by $157 billion, while adding $125 billion to the U.S. system.
French President Francois Hollande has emerged as the most vocal critic of U.S. spying, claiming he will not take part in July 8 negotiations until the U.S. vows to stop its its spying efforts.
“We cannot accept this kind of behavior between partners and allies,” Hollande told reporters at a press conference, according to the BBC. “We ask that this immediately stop.”
He isn’t alone. German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed Hollande’s response, calling the alleged spying efforts unacceptable. European Parliament President Martin Schulz addressed the issue at a press conference, questioning whether surveillance should be addressed in trade agreements.
“One consequence (of the Snowden leak) for sure is that people will ask, ‘Does it make sense to negotiate a free-trade agreement without clear rules about data protection and control?” he said, according to Russia Today.
The U.S. has yet to publicly acknowledge any efforts to spy on European allies. In a visit to Brunei, Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to calm the waters by hoisting national security as a top global priority, yet stopping short of admitting to U.S. spying efforts.
“Every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security and all kinds of information contributes to that,” he said in a press conference. “And all I know is that is not unusual for lots of nations. But beyond that I’m not going to comment any further until I have all the facts and find out precisely what the situation is.”