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Divided EU Responds To NSA Spying Scandal

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Leaders from 28 European Union countries signed a joint statement after a meeting in Brussels on Friday to warn the United States that “a lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation” required in the fight against terrorism. The statement also reminded Washington that U.S.-EU relations ought to be "based on respect and trust."

The memo is the first joint statement from EU leaders in response to revelations that point to massive U.S. espionage activities in Europe. The Guardian reported Thursday that the phone numbers of 35 European leaders -- including German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- had been turned over to the National Security Agency and immediately "tasked" for monitoring.

Despite sharing a common position, the EU is divided about what steps to take in response to the alleged spying, and countries are making decisions separately.

Merkel announced that she will ask the U.S. for a new agreement that limits the scope of both countries’ investigations and surveillance activities, The Guardian reported. French President François Hollande is looking for a similar arrangement. According to leading French newspaper Le Monde, Hollande said on Friday that his government has gathered “several trails” pointing to a cyberattack against the Élysée Palace -- the official residence of the president -- in May 2012. The announcement gave credibility to a report previously published by Le Monde, which pointed to the NSA as the organization responsible for the attack.

The UK and Spain show more caution

The United Kingdom and Spain have distanced themselves from the German and French proposals. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has focused on Edward Snowden’s leaks, which he said at a press conference in Brussels on Friday have made it "a lot more difficult to keep our countries and our people safe" from terrorists who "want to blow up our families."

Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, has announced that he is summoning the U.S. ambassador in Madrid to ask him for explanations, just like Merkel did on Thursday. Nevertheless, Rajoy has not joined Germany and France’s request for bilateral talks with Washington.

“We have no proof of espionage against Spain,” Rajoy said Friday in a press conference.

The EU Parliament asks for sanctions

Beyond the national initiatives, the European Union has several tools to respond to what they consider scandalous espionage.

This week, the European Parliament asked through a non-binding resolution to suspend the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP), also known as the “Swift agreement." The program allows the U.S. access to banking data from the Swift money-transfer system in order to aid the fight against terrorism.

In 2010, the EU Parliament rejected a version of the TFTP because it permitted what the parliament considered to be excessive access to data. The current version was established after additional privacy protections were added.

A group of nine members of the EU Parliament will travel to Washington on Monday to gather information about the alleged surveillance.

The espionage scandal could also delay or block another major treaty: the free-trade agreement between the EU and the U.S. In February, both parties announced the beginning of negotiations around the much-anticipated agreement. According to a European Commission memo, the commercial treaty could generate up to 86 billion euros for the EU and 65 billion euros for the U.S.

On Thursday, Martin Schulz, the European Parliament’s president, asked members to stop the ongoing negotiations for the agreement. But so far, all 28 governments have declined.

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