What’s next for EU-US ties amid spying scandal?

According to Der Spiegel’s report NSA allegedly bugged the EU premises in the US.


1. What would you expect from the both sides right now? The EU will probably demand an explanation, any chance the US will be willing to give it to us?

2. In case it is true how should the EU react, would you say that this case can really have a severe impact on EU-US relations as Schulz said?


Ellen Wasylina, Chairman, Conseil des Experts, Paris, France Associate Professor of Geopolitics, Geoeconomics and Business stratégies

1. The EU is certainly aware of the security challenges that the US has experienced and the legislation passed to protect and defend the US in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and well before : FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) was enacted in 1978 Under President Carter following the Watergate scandal in Washington, DC; the NSA (the National Security Agency was to abide by FISA, until 9/11/2001. On September 12, the NSA “could circumvent federal statutes and the Constitution as long as there was some visceral connection to looking for terrorists.” In the Inspector General’s report of 2004, page 24, the AUMF (the authorization of military force) passed by Congress shortly after the attacks of 9/11 gave the President authority to use both domestically and abroad ‘all necessary and appropriate force’, including signals intelligence capabilities.

In the NYTimes it was reported on December 17, 2004 that “the NSA first began to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on telephone calls and e-mail messages between the US and Afghanistan months before President Bush officially authorized a broader version of the agency’s special domestic collection program…and that this program had been instrumental in disrupting terrorists cells in America.

It is interesting to note that in terms of R & D investment in information technologies, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies and electronic information, the US invested $35.3 billion in 1999 and tripled that to $94.2 billion; whereas the EU had spent only $9 billion in 1999 and barely doubled that to 15.7 billion in 2003. This is where a noticeable technology gap started to appear. More could be developed on this subject, of how much of Europe’s defense depends on the financial , human and material resources of the US for its defense. But this requires another report!

On May 11, 2006, the USA Today reported that “The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans…using the data to analyze calling patterns. The agency’s goal is ‘to create a database of every call every made’ within the nation’s borders”.

The EU would certainly like to informed of surveillance being conducted on their premises and how US national security interests supercede this surveillance. It should be noted that the EU and the US cooperated on security in the Wake of the 9/11 attacks, defined in a meeting on March 25 and 26 at the Council of Europe, following the attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004. It was on the heels of this event that the European ministers of Justice and the Interior meet just a week later to discuss the importance of the necessity of improved cooperation to better fight terrorism. One of the issues brought up was the reinforcement of intelligence sharing.

In other words, the US and the EU have long been cooperating on intelligence and to the benefit of both parties, through Europol, for example.

2. It is curious that this surveillance revelation would come up just as the negotiations for the US Transatlantic Free Trade agreement are winding down. Who risks losing from the EU-US’s move to economic integration?

Is it also a coincidence that this revelation comes on the heals of the Edward Snowden affair? Was this information part of the documents he is said to have in his possession? and that have now been leaked? What damage will this do to the EU-US relations? Why allow a contractor for Booz Allen to divulge classified information? We already went through this with Julian Assange and it only proved to be damaging….on the short term to diplomatic relations between allies and enemies!

It is to ponder on how the EU and US can come together on national security that is not only military but economic, political, human, food, Financial, cultural and education. They should not be diverted from concluding the TAFTA, for two entities that share the same democratic values.

There will be no more military wars between the great powers but rather cyberwars or cyberterrorism, asymetrical and economic wars and wars for precious limited resources.

They should hold talks and dialogue on intelligence gathering and sharing, such as William Hague suggested in the UK Parliament. Terrorism is a priority for the US, but is it for the EU? The two entities should work together on isolating regimes that are a security threat to our modern, prosperous peaceful societies.

Robert Dover, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Loughborough University

The EU (and the EP in particular) will be asking questions of the American authorities. These will be similar to those asked of the US when the Passenger Name Record agreements were being discussed. In this case, namely: what information was recorded? How was it used, analysed, and stored (and for how long)? Was it used just within the US or has it been funnelled back out to national agencies (as Edward Snowden and the British newspaper The Guardian argue it has). So in effect, states allied to the US might have also received intelligence about the EU via liaison relationships. This would make the scandal one that transcended just the EU vs US and more internal to the EU as well.

The US have sought to justify their programmes by saying (initially) that no US citizens were targeted and then to fall back on the security vs liberty arguments. This also has a resonance with the PNR debate – it was clearly the case that the EU (public and member governments) valued a conception of liberty over the myth of total security, whilst the US were clearly wedded to ‘total security’. If the US addresses the question at all, it will be couched in terms of operational details not to be released, keeping themselves appraised of the views of opinion formers.

The bigger questions are around: 1) why does the US need to collect such a wide array of intelligence (it’s the collection of the views and communications of all those involved in policy at any level – so from the marginal upwards)? 2) Do European states need to start thinking about the US as ‘hypercompetitive’ state? One that adopts competitive behaviours as much towards its friends as it does its enemies? That sounds to me like a position that most candid US officials could sign up to, but it is certainly not how countries like the UK view their transatlantic partners.

2. The bold truth is that the EU is not powerful enough (in the sense of its institutions, nor its members acting together – because they’re usually divided) to leverage the sort of penalty on the US for this behaviour that would dissuade them from continuing it on. There may be some sort of impact on the upcoming trade agreement – it might make EU negotiators slightly less willing to give way on their important issues. If my hunch is correct that individual European intelligence agencies might have received some of this intelligence then there is unlikely to be a wide call (in member states) to act against the US. It will be institutions like the European Parliament where most dissent will occur, and this might come to be focussed through the Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue group. Whether the EU institutions can take strong technical countermeasures to prevent technically able and determined intelligence agencies from listening in, or collecting emails etc is very doubtful indeed.

Heidi Maurer, Assistant Professor, Maastricht University, Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Fellow at Center for Transatlantic Relations (SAIS), John Hopkins University

1. Currently it is interesting to observe that the topic seems rather a headline issue in the European press. So far, It is not really an newsworthy topic for the US media and it is also hardly mentioned in any public deliberations – it just does not seem salient enough. The EU should clearly demand an explanation, but first it will be important to identify the right channels and contact points. Just publicly blaming the US will not be

enough, but the issue should be addressed via various channels (diplomatic ones, but it could also be an idea to approach Congresswomen and Congressmen) It is unlikely that the US will agree to discuss this issue in public.

Secondly, expectations of a reaction also have to be realistic: It would be surprising if the US government would publicly acknowledge those activities, as would also no other government. It is important to signal

that this is considered inappropriate behavior, but European interlocutors, if serious, might also have to consider clearly what they want to achieve with these efforts, i.e. what is the exact aim of this

intervention. Until now, the public outcry is a first step, but if Europeans take this matter seriously they will have to pursue it coherently and with clear objectives in mind.

2. There are two dimensions to the EU reaction.

1) Externally, the EU should ensure a concerted and coordinated approach: MS and EU representatives should clearly agree of who officially represents the EU concerns, what the communicated objectives should be, and what exactly the consequences for the transatlantic relationship entail. The EU should try to avoid too many different voices to criticise different aspects and suggest different reactions – there should be a common line.

2) EU internally, member states and EU institutions have to consider if they really also want to act on their concerns. In the latest EEAS strategic document, it was decided to mainly safe in terms of safe infrastructure and electronic protection. If the EU is really serious about its concerns with US spy attempts it should also be ready to take counter-measures to ensure this does not too easily happen again in the future.

I doubt that this incident will have a considerable impact on the transatlantic relationship. US authorities seem likely to ignore complaints from Europe publicly, and in the past months there was too strong rhetoric about the importance of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership that it seems likely to be stopped. Also considering, that the US has the other options (like the transpacific trade negotiations), while EU leaders during the last few weeks branded the TTIP way more strongly as healthy way to get growth back in Europe.

If European policy-makers will take something useful away from this incident (in case it proves true) it might rather push them to consider the US and their actions in the right light: while the US is friends with many countries, it is strategic in its pursue of political and economic interests and will do everything to achieve those objectives. The US works towards friendly and close relationships with partners, but that does not imply a close and unconditional long-term transatlantic alliance. Sometimes it seems EU member states and EU politicians became so used to the consensus-seeking nature of negotiating with each other within the EU framework, that they automatically assume such processes and informal rules to also apply on the international arena – but in the transatlantic relationship that is certainly not the case, and this latest scandal could push Europeans to realise this finally.

Jean-Marc Rickli, Assistant Professor, Institute for International and Civil Security, Khalifa University

1. From the American perspective, what we will probably see in the coming days is an attempt to dampen down the scandal by minimising the extent of its reach. The US will probably use a reassurance rhetoric stating that the European states are important allies to the United States and that they work jointly in intelligence sharing. They might add that both the US and the Europeans have common interests. From the European perspectives, we shall witness a strong reaction from both the EU member states’ governments as well as the EU authorities. Yet, as was the case with the original PRISM allegations that targeted non-US citizen, after the initial outcry, the situation returned to normality quite quickly.

2. As mentioned above the initial reaction should be firm even more so in countries where national elections will take place this year such as in Germany. There, we shall expect that the Social Democrats use this affair to put pressure on the Merkel government. For all European governments however, these allegations demonstrate their powerlessness towards the USA and are very embarrassing. Indeed, beyond the official protests, the Europeans do not have much leverage over the United States. The key information that the Europeans should look for is about the kind of intelligence that the USA gathered? Was it just about politico-strategic issues? In that case, the Americans being in the driving seat on most international issues the intelligence gathered would probably just be about making sure that the positions of the Europeans are aligned on those of the USA. And if not, getting the intelligence so that they can influence European positions. If on the other hand, intelligence gathered is of economic and trade nature then this should have far more reaching consequences. Indeed the Europeans being on most economic issues a competitor of the USA, the intelligence by the Americans would be key to provide them with a strategic advantage over the Europeans in order to access markets or secure new deals or to contribute to the US research and developments activities. Here we could think about possible implications for the Airbus-Boeing commercial war for instance. Yet even though it can be proven that the USA used PRISM for business intelligence purposes, it will be very difficult for the Europeans to retaliate since they are not acting as a unified great power against another great power. Moreover, within the EU, the UK is a strong allies of the USA where according to the documents released by the Spiegel the PRISM program did not apply. It follows that the Europeans will only be able to issue threats about current negotiations such as the EU-US free trade agreement but it will be difficult to go beyond that.

Frances Burwell, Atlantic Council vice president, Director of the Program on Transatlantic Relations, Atlantic Council

The issue of privacy and surveillance of on-line activity is a source of growing tension between the US and EU. But it should be noted that some countries, such as Germany, are far more concerned about this issue that other EU members, for understandable reasons. In the US , opinions vary enormously, with some members of Congress very concerned about the possible invasion of the privacy of US citizens. (See Huff Post article).

And although individuals may be concerned, they do continue to post items on Facebook and other on line communities.

As for the questions below, I don’t think the possible surveillance of EU delegations in the US will have a long term effect. I have no idea if it is actually being done in the case, but the reality is that governments do seek to “listen” to each others’ communications. IF it is true, it might be seen as an indication that the EU is of increasing interest to the US.

The larger issue does have the potential for becoming a serious matter in US-EU relations. It could conceivably become an obstacle to the successful completion of the upcoming trade talks, or, the trade talks could offer an opportunity for establishing a solid US -EU basis for dealing with this matter.

Jörg Wolf, Editor-in-chief of atlantic-community.org

I agree with you that this could potentially be a serious challenge to US-EU ties. Or it could blow over, like Echelon and other revelations.

EU Parliament report from July 2001.

So it could be that nothing will change on the intergovernmental level, but European citizens will mistrust the US even more, which then would make it more difficult for EU governments to cooperate with the US, incl. NATO.

I don’t think the US will give a full explanation. Neither the UK re Tempora.

If the latest allegations are true, then this is one more reason for the EU and the individual EU governments to take cyber security seriously. They have to react by increasing their defensive cyber security capabilities, so that such bugging is not possible anymore. Neither from friends, nor from enemies. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me.”

So, I think we can see this as a wake-up call. It’s good that this wake-up call came from our friends spying on us. That’s not causing as much damage, as if our enemies/frenemies had achieved this . So in a sense, we can thank the US.


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