Brussels (AFP) – A widening scandal over U.S. spying on its friends and allies put the fight against terrorism centre stage Friday as EU leaders called for a new understanding with Washington on intelligence gathering.
At the close of a summit overshadowed by the spying row, all 28 EU leaders “stressed that intelligence gathering is a vital element in the fight against terrorism”.
They noted “the close relationship between Europe and the U.S.A. and the value of that partnership”.
But this must “be based on respect and trust,” a lack of which “could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering,” they said in a statement.
Revelations of U.S. covert surveillance based on leaked documents from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have sparked outrage in the European Union where data protection is a very sensitive issue.
The scandal widened this week with the German chancellery saying it has information that U.S. intelligence is spying on the mobile phone exchanges of Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting Berlin to summon its U.S. ambassador over the issue.
“Spying between friends, that’s just not done,” Merkel said.
In another potential embarrassment for Washington, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Friday he would call in the U.S. ambassador to Madrid to explain reports of American spying on the country.
“We do not have evidence that Spain has been spied on … but we are calling in the ambassador to get information,” Rajoy said at a closing press conference.
France and Germany are to lead efforts to fix new ground rules with Washington on intelligence gathering by the end of this year.
Snowden’s leaks ‘make our world more dangerous’
Britain — which has very close intelligence links with the United States formed over many years — meanwhile robustly defended its secret service.
“Every year (they) … help to keep our people safe, help to keep people safe in other European countries,” Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters.