Common EU approach towards US in spying scandal? Not so likely

French President Hollande calls for common EU stand on US spying claims. Would you say that there is any chance the EU will find common stand on this or not and why? Read few comments.

Robert DoverSenior Lecturer in International Relations, Loughborough University

Well, there are two elements to Hollande’s statement that are worth noting:

1) they ignore that the French external intelligence agency (DGSE) has been peculiarly adept at spying on their allies, so much so that there have been several attempts in the last twenty years to implement (so the story goes) ‘no spy agreements’ between the UK-France and US-France. But these appear to have both floundered on definitions of spying and what each side were prepared to countenance.

2) I think in the context of a European project very much under stress and strain (the next few years I think are make-or-break), and the impending EU-US trade-deal, which if signed would cement a UK-German view of the EU as part of a wider Atlantic community. Intelligence liasison is an important part of the diplomatic mix (even if it isn’t a highlighted or public part of the mix), thus for Hollande to make progress on a cohesive European response to this would help shift some of the political territory towards a French view of Europe. That’s not quite as articulate as I would have liked. The shorter version is that intelligence forms part of a diplomatic and therefore political narrative. Generating cohesive disdain for US actions is helpful to the French view. It is unfortunate that the US is quite so pivotal (from that perspective) to counterterrorism etc in Europe. The chances of a cohesive view that runs further than rhetoric saying it’s distasteful are limited because of the relationships of dependence on the US for intelligence.

Timo BehrResearch Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs

On the face of it, I would say that Holland’s reaction might be as much about domestic politics than anything else. To me it’s not quite clear here what a “common position” on spying could entail beyond perhaps a Council statement rejecting such practices by the US. It’s obvious that the UK – as a member of the five eyes alliance – will never concede to any concrete EU measures concerning data surveillance – whatever these could be. I personally would also be sceptical about the potential about this affecting the EU-US trade deal in the long run. But I also have to admit that this is not something I have followed very closely and I am not very familiar with the legal and technical background of the whole affair.. Sorry, but I am afraid that’s all I have on this one.

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