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A very listened to Europe!

Microphones in the flowers? :-) (Credit: EU Council)
Microphones in the flowers? 🙂 (Credit: Council of the EU)

(BRUSSELS2) The revelation by the German weekly Spiegel (When the Americans spy on the EU behind NATO walls) of organized espionage of the European Union by the American NSA provoked some reactions this weekend. We can also ask ourselves the question if these “listenings” are the only ones…

The European Parliament, furious

President Martin Schulz (S&D) immediately reacted on Saturday evening with a call expressing his astonishment. " On behalf of the European Parliament, I request full light and further information (must be provided) promptly by the US authorities on these allegations”. Sunday he specifies in a television interview, (listen here) I am shocked to see the representations treated as enemy representations. If this were true, this should have consequences for relations with the United States. There will have to be justification. » Certain conclusions will have to be drawn on the negotiation of an agreement with the United States “We will have to introduce clear rules on data protection into the agreement with the United States " he added. It must be said that the subject is causing a scandal in Germany in the middle of the electoral campaign. The SPD and the Greens are demanding explanations from Chancellor Angela Merkel. Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE) asks that Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy come and explain themselves to the European Parliament. Several MEPs – such as Green Dany Cohn Bendit and Modem Marielle de Sarnez – want to go further, calling for discussions on the transatlantic free trade treaty to be suspended. Dany Cohn-Bendit asks that “ EU grants asylum to Snowden. And wants him to be a candidate for the future Sakharov Prize.”

The prudent High Representative

The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, C. Ashton, responsible for the delegations which were the first to react, reacted the latest. His press release was only received at the end of the weekend (around 21 p.m.). “ The EEAS has contacted US authorities both in Washington and Brussels to seek urgent clarification of the veracity of the facts surrounding these allegations. explains C. Ashton. " US authorities have told us that they are verifying the accuracy of the information published yesterday and will get back to us as soon as possible.  (…) we will not make any further comments at this stage, until we have more clarity on the matter ". Was it possible to be more concise? Joao Vale de Almeida (*), the EU ambassador to Washington, said no better in a tweet sent around 16 p.m. (8 a.m. local). “ I confronted the US government with press reports about access to EU communications systems. They promised information and eagerly await it. We need clarification”. In fact, among European diplomats, we remain skeptical. As one of them recounts, “ this story is quite old. And we have already taken countermeasures. »


The Commission advocates defense capabilities… against espionage

On the Commission side, the reaction was quicker but initially measured. “ We are following the matter with the necessary verifications and investigations but we will not comment at this stage. replies a spokesperson to B2 who questions him for a first reaction. Faced with the scale of the reactions in Berlin, Paris and the European Parliament, the Berlaymont is raising its voice. And the commissioners are speaking out. “ Between partners, we don't spy! launches the European Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding. Same thing for Michel Barnier on his tweeter thread: “ Clarity, trust and transparency are what we can and must expect among friends and allies. Explanations from the Americans are urgently needed. “He summarizes, adding” To combat espionage and digital attacks, the EU must increase its capacity for action and reaction.” A really interesting track...


Comments : Good news ? !

Europeans and Americans competitors. If this news is confirmed, we can say that, ultimately, it is good news 🙂 Despite all its detractors, the European Union still has interest, is attractive, represents an economic power that it is interesting to drill ! 🙂 It also serves as a reminder that the “anti-terrorist” fight is not the only task of the intelligence services. This revelation – officially attributed to the Snowden file (NB: this has yet to be verified) – also comes at the right time to remind Europeans that if, with the Americans, they are allies, often; friends, sometimes; they are not animated and governed by a common interest. Most often, if not systematically, Americans and Europeans are in competition on a number of global and domestic markets. In other words, they are “enemies”. And wanting to know more about your competitor then becomes logical.

In Brussels, espionage is combined in the plural. Russians and Chinese - to name but a few - maintain representations in Brussels which do not only meet the needs of diplomatic relations... The entryism of the different institutions is almost methodical for these two countries which resort to all the classic methods (diplomats , students, journalists, etc.). They are not the only ones. According to the files, Turks, Israelis, Azeris... even Koreans and Swiss practice “attentive observation” (to be “diplomatic”) of European actions and actions. Spying does not only take place in Brussels. In PeSDC missions abroad, it is also not extraordinary to come across people who are not 100% employed by the European Union, like these South African “logisticians” and “cooks” encountered in Uganda on the EUTM Somalia mission for example. And it is common practice for certain liaison officers or national representatives to be there more to report to the capitals what they hear than the opposite. The American contingent within EULEX Kosovo should not escape this rule…

(*) Former chief of staff of JM Barroso and former sherpa, his appointment in Washington had been contested. Read : The “Vale de Almeida” file is making waves at the Council…

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “A very listened to Europe!"

  • What's new in the landscape of transatlantic espionage?

    Have we already written off the Echelon network in our selective memories?

    A refreshing reminder of the history of the Echelon network

    1947/​48 – The UKUSA pact is extended. This secret pact concluded during the Second World War between Great Britain and the United States organizes the collaboration of the intelligence services of the two countries in the field of telecommunications espionage. Canada, Australia and New Zealand join this pact of cooperation and exchange of information collected. Main targets: USSR and communist countries.

    1952 – In the United States, creation of the NSA (National Security Agency) by a directive of President Truman. The NSA is responsible, within the intelligence services, for SIGINT (signal intelligence) operations, i.e. electromagnetic espionage (monitoring of radio links, radar emissions, telecommunications, etc.) and the design coding and encryption systems intended to ensure the confidentiality of the communications of the government, diplomats and the American military.

    1966 – The NSA takes control of the Menwith Hill base (north of England) which until then had been run by the American army. It will make it the largest interception station in the world.

    1985/​87 – Plan to create a global telecommunications surveillance network revealed by British journalist Duncan Campbell. The principle of the F 415 project is to link together, using powerful computers, the various interception bases of the UKUSA pact countries which are scattered throughout the world.

    1989 – The fall of the Berlin Wall leads to the redefinition of the strategic priorities of the United States. The conquest of world markets is now the major objective.

    1996 – New Zealander Nicky Hager uncovers the existence and operation of the largest communications spy ring ever devised. He reveals this network called “Echelon” in a book entitled “Secret power”.

    1998 – A study commissioned by the European Parliament highlights the dangers posed by the activity of this network to the countries of the European Union and their companies.

    Another brief reminder of the French “Graves” radar, whose mission is to monitor spy satellites, particularly American ones, which intercept sensitive national data and communications: cf.

    In conclusion, what is really new in the European “carebearsland”?

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