Crisis of Confidence US-Europe

Tarja Cronberg

The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee returned from the US a few weeks ago. The main subject of the negotiations was the relations between the European Union and the United States. All kinds of troublesome issues have been coming up: Syria, the trade agreement, NSA and Angela Merkel's phone..

President Obama announced that the national security agency (NSA) will stop bugging the leaders of its allies. Why just the leaders? Why not each and every one of us who can hardly be taken for terrorists? Besides Merkel's phone, millions of ordinary peoples' phone calls have been listened to.

Our politicians have to protect us from overzealous security services. The Europeans have demanded explanations, a working group has been appointed, Obama has promised to sort it all out. But it is not likely that we will receive satisfying answers. The Americans are opposed to all international and bilateral agreements. The answer I got to my question concerning this was that "in that case Afghanistan would wish to have an agreement as well."  

But there has to be mutually agreed upon rules!

Americans defend themselves by saying that "everybody is spying." And that they don't care about our conversations with our mothers, only if our mother is having a conversation with a terrorist. And that it is impossible to recognize the difference between an ordinary citizen and a terrorist after 9/11. The Patriot Act was signed into law in February 2001 in the US, making it possible to bug, among others, foreigners, if they are suspected of being terrorists or linked to terrorism. The security services have chosen a broad interpretation. Everything under the sun has been done. The control of the services has been extremely poor.  

The atmosphere during our talks was aggressive. There was no time or space for apologies. The EU and the US are currently involved in negotiations on a free trade agreement, important for both parties. The phone bugging scandal has had an impact on the negotiations, which will no doubt continue. But the number of opponents is increasing.

The crisis of confidence between the EU and the US is real and it is deep. At the end of the day it is all about priorities. Americans prioritize security, whereas privacy is our main priority in Europe. This is the case not least in Merkel's own home country, where Stasi's spying is remembered all too well.


PN Member Tarja Cronberg, MEP, is Chair of the European Parliament´s Iran-delegation and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and its Subcommittee on Security and Defence. 


Photo by European Parliament

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