The US congressional delegation discussed in Brussels and Berlin on November 25-26 the possibility of making alterations to the expanded operations of the American special services in the European continent. Head of the delegation, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs Chris Murphy wrote in his internet blog before the trip to Europe that the special services should display greater restraint, and described concern of European allies as rightful.(1) Perhaps that’s what Europeans like to hear, but it’s more prudent to judge the Senator’s views by his deeds, not by a phrase of posted statement. In February 2011, Chris Murphy for example voted for extension of the patriot act expanding the power of special services after the 9/11 tragedy.
The American delegation was received by European Commissioner for justice Vivianne Reding in Brussels and met with Germany’s Foreign Ministers Westerwelle and Interior Minister Friedrich in Berlin. After President Obama assured Chancellor Merkel that her cell phone is not ”tapped” (it is logical to assume that it was monitored in the past), it is Washington’s first official response to the multiple concerns expressed by the Europeans. The protracted silence of the American partners put leading German politicians including the Chancellor in an awkward situation before their citizens. In as early as August, the Cabinet adopted an eight-point programme for better privacy protection. In particular, these points envisage expert-level talks with the United States on the use of personal data, cancellation of administrative agreements with the United States, the UK and France on the monitoring of privacy of correspondence, posts and telecommunication.(2) There is silence in response. Obama turns down the criticism against American special services and firmly refuses to make official apology on the use of data acquired through the illegal eavesdropping. According to the European diplomatic circles, what the Americans achieved was exclusion of the clause on the prohibition of data transfer to the US National Security Agency (so-called anti-FISA clause (3)) from the European Union data protection regulation.
However, the problem is not about the fact that it is virtually impossible to draw a line between the privacy and national security – there is too much temptation to use technologies to conduct the economic surveillance too. Back in early 1990s, then-President of the United States Clinton said the data acquired by the special services should be used in the interests of the US economy (it means if terrorists did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them).
The disclosure about the scale of the spying activity of the US secret services thanks to the personal courage of Edward Snowden led to very serious consequences. The dense cover fully masking what is going on in the politics suddenly became transparent, thus, bringing into public view the complex system of control in the countries of the West. It appeared that spying is actively used to maintain stability inside the country and keep global hegemony of the United States. The documented data showed that the citadel of democracy does not only snoops on its enemies, but also not scruples to gather data on the allies. Such a ”discovery” was more painfully taken in Germany not because this country found itself in the focus of the American intelligence’s attention. The point is that the German, unlike the French and English, do not have deeply enrooted democratic traditions. Americans are considered architects of democracy in the post-war Germany. But is such a position compatible with the functions of a world gendarme?
It is impossible to attrite Angela Merkel’s phone tapping to the care about prevention of a terrorist threat. But the threat of the economic espionage caused a serious anxiety in Germany. H. Meyer, the head of Germany’s federal industrial union, expressed deep concern over the lack of information about the nature and scale of information leak. The Association of German Engineers drew the attention to the intensity of tapping done by Americans is especially high in the west and south of the country, which are home to the high-tech enterprises of the German industry.(4) A survey conducted in the German companies suggested that every fourth attempt of the economic espionage against Germany in 2012 was made from the North America.(5)
There have been voices raised expressing doubts about the expediency of acceding to the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. “Complete transparency in the relationship between partners was indispensable for signing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement. The lack of confidence would complicate the negotiation process”. Volker Treier of German Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.(6) Other European countries appear to take the US behavior for granted. Only Foreign Minister of Luxembourg Jan Asselborn said he wanted solid guarantees that the US stopped spying activities before the free trade zone talks start.
In its turn the United States let know it would not make serious concessions related to such an important area as cyber security. The status of the American delegation which visited Europe confirms the fact there were no security experts among the visiting US lawmakers team. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said ”We are working together so that trust can be reestablished”, after talks with Senator Chris Murphy and Representative Gregory Meeks. He said that the both parties were applying efforts to restore mutual trust.(7)
The German media simply ignored this empty wording. The Internal Affairs Minister did not say anything special except repeating the words of Angela Merkel devoted to the visit of guests from overseas, stressing that mistrust was unacceptable in the relationship between allies. In Brussels, the words of Reding sounded quite ambiguously, as he said, ”We are talking and listening, not spying on each other”.(8) So much the worse that the atmosphere of the meeting was to be characterized this way.
The European Commission decided not to deteriorate the relationship with America. Its President José Manuel Barroso said there would be no amendments to the Safe-Harbor data privacy agreement, the deal that allows American companies to collect personal data from EU customers. It means that Brussels capitulates ceding to the tough stance of Washington.
Poor Germany: They Hate us Again reads the headline in FOCUS weekly. The article attracted public attention. The author says skeptical sentiments towards Germany grow stronger in Brussels.(10) The group is headed by the United Kingdom, the US business partner. The effort is spurred by the incoming the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the event which naturally evokes anti-German feelings.
Under the circumstances Germany is not shying away from working out a new European law on personal privacy but pins greater hopes on enhancing its national security system. This provision is part of coalition accords between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and center-left Social Democrats (SPD). German special services ask for 500 million euros to enhance security protection.
The UN General Assembly’s human rights committee on November 27 unanimously adopted a resolution sponsored by Brazil and Germany to protect the right to privacy against unlawful surveillance, following months of reports about US eavesdropping abroad. The United States engaged in lobbying with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which comprise the ”Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing group, to dilute some of the draft resolution’s language.
Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Science, Ph.D
(1) reference: dpa, 21.11.2013.
(2) Acht-Punkte-Programm zum besseren Schutz der Privatsphäre.
(3) Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – the federal law adopted in 1978 which prescribes procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of ”foreign intelligence information” between ”foreign powers” and ”agents of foreign powers”.
(7) Westerwelle: Verlorenes Vertrauen wiederherstellen, 25.11.2013.
(8) Statement by Vice-President Viviane Reding on her meeting with U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy.
(9) de.reuters.com, 22.11.2013.
(10) Kissle Alexander. Armes Deutschland: Sie hassen uns wieder / FOCUS , 20.11.2013.