Obama, Merkel discuss US spy concerns

2013-07-04 11:01

Washington - President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday to address mounting European concerns about broad US surveillance programs.

Germany and other European nations are in uproar over last month's revelations by a US IT contractor that the National Security Agency has been scooping up vast amounts of data on Americans and foreigners.

"The president assured the chancellor that the United States takes seriously the concerns of our European allies and partners," according to a readout of the call between the two leaders.

The White House said they agreed to a "high-level meeting" between US and German security officials in the coming days to address intelligence matters, and that a US-EU dialogue on intelligence collection and data protection would begin as early as 8 July.

That appeared to be a concession of sorts to European Union demands to set up working groups looking at the extent of the US snooping into phone data, emails and web searches.


Obama and Merkel, who faces criticism from the opposition less than three months from elections in Germany, also discussed the upcoming launch of sensitive US-European trade talks.

With some Europeans expressing outrage at how US data gathering could leave them exposed, French President Francois Hollande has threatened to block the negotiations until France can be sure spying on EU institutions has ended.

At an EU conference in Berlin on youth unemployment, the 28-nation bloc presented a joint reaction to the claims of US mass surveillance.

EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso announced the bloc's position - that talks aimed at establishing the world's largest free trade area run parallel with the US-EU working groups.

On a visit to Berlin this month, Obama reassured Merkel that American spies were not "rifling" through the emails of German and French citizens.

Diplomatic row

In Germany, a country whose history makes it deeply sensitive to personal surveillance, the issue is particularly troublesome.

At the centre of the revelations is fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who, with his US passport revoked, has been holed up in Moscow's international airport.

Snowden has sought asylum in more than 20 countries, and suspicion surged this week that the 30-year-old was on the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales, who had been in Moscow.

The flight was diverted and forced to land in Austria after several European nations closed their airspace to the plane, triggering an international diplomatic row.

  • Mandingo Queen - 2013-07-04 11:32

    It is crucial that Snowden receives protection from one of America's major partners like Germany, for that sends Washington the strongest message that its illegal behaviour is unacceptable to free people the world over.

      Mandingo Queen - 2013-07-04 12:55

      I know, it's more wishful thinking than anything else. Look at Hollande who pretended to be outraged by US spying on the French, but later fell into line when Washington came calling. Why don't they just declare themselves US vassal states and give up the pretence of being independent countries.

      Jacob Molife - 2013-07-04 17:34

      In other news Alfonso Dhlakama is breathin fire n brimstone !

      Mandingo Queen - 2013-07-04 18:04

      Trolling is ultimately a waste of your time....and News24 server space!

      Jacob Molife - 2013-07-04 20:16

      @Mandingo QuEen But Her Mejesty I'm only tryin to draw your attention to your backyard. The proverbial log in your neighbor's eye ne ???

      Mandingo Queen - 2013-07-05 01:57

      This is under "World News" you moron. Is your brain unable to comprehend what is happening around the world. Don't expect others to succumb to your own limitations!

  • Eterni80 - 2013-07-04 12:50

    everybody is spying on everybody - always have, always will. the internet just made it easier..

  • shilulu - 2013-07-04 12:53

    those political mafiosos have much to hide to the extend of grounding a presidential plane. Snowden must have some nasty facts that will shock us.

      Jacob Molife - 2013-07-04 17:26

      To what 'exteND' Shilulu ???? The way you mispronounce is the way you mis-spell ???

  • Juan Jordaan - 2013-07-05 13:55

    lol I don't get this ... US tanked EU(and the world) by selling dubious securities. Now they are also spying on companies. And everything is fine ...

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