Merkel, Hollande demand talks on ‘out of control spying’ by the end of year
Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
Brussels, 25 October
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have demanded talks with the USA by the end of the year following allegations that 35 world leaders’ phone calls were monitored by Washington’s security agencies.
Europe’s leaders have turned their wrath on the United States, condemning as unacceptable the alleged “out of control” spying on citizens and governments.
French president Francois Hollande said: "What is at stake is preserving our relations with the United States. They should not be changed because of what has happened. But trust has to be restored and reinforced."
Claims of widespread surveillance of phones, email and social media made in leaks by Edward Snowden, the former contractor with America’s National Security Agency, have already caused deep rifts between the USA and nations including Brazil and Russia.
But it appears that not even Washington’s closest friends are immune from the snooping. On Wednesday night Ms Merkel called President Barack Obama to take him to task over reports that the NSA had bugged her mobile phone, in a scandal that could threaten trade and security ties between Washington and its closest allies.
As EU leaders gathered in Brussels for a summit which has been overshadowed by the hacking allegations, more revelations emerged that the NSA had been handed the phone numbers of 35 unnamed world leaders by an official in another department.
Ms Merkel and Mr Hollande held a meeting on the sidelines of the Brussels summit to craft a joint position on the issue, with the French and German governments demanding talks with the USA by the end of the year to resolve the dispute and attempt to restore trust. Ms Merkel spoke of her upset at the alleged phone monitoring, saying, "It’s become clear that for the future, something must change – and significantly.
"We will put all efforts into forging a joint understanding by the end of the year for the co-operation of the agencies between Germany and the US and France and the US, to create a framework for the co-operation."
A memo from 2006 sourced to Snowden and published by The Guardian said US government employees were encouraged to mine their contact books for the land line, fax or mobile numbers of “foreign political or military leaders” and pass on the details on to the NSA. One employee subsequently handed over more than 200 contact numbers. While it was unclear from the memo if the phones of the leaders were ever tapped, it says that the numbers resulted in “little reportable intelligence” as they “appear not the be used for sensitive discussions”. The intelligence did, however, provide “lead information to other numbers”.
Ms Merkel and Mr Hollande’s counterparts rallied round them. “I will support her (Ms Merkel) completely in her complaint and say that this is not acceptable,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Belgian PM Elio Di Rupo, said the EU needed to take concrete action.  the independent