Germany summoned the US ambassador on Thursday as outrage grew at news the US may have spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Politicians warned it could have consequences for the trans-Atlantic partnership.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will meet with US Ambassador John Emerson later on Thursday, a spokeswoman told AFP, in a highly unusual step between the decades-long allies.
The US embassy in Berlin declined to go into details about the meeting or how the latest spy allegations would affect German-US relations when asked by The Local.
But a statement from the White House last night claimed that despite the alleged phone tapping, Merkel and Obama had agreed to “intensify further cooperation between our intelligence services.”
Meanwhile Merkel will discuss covert US surveillance in Europe with French President Francois Hollande on Thursday, a French diplomatic source said.
Merkel and Hollande, due to meet on the margins of an EU leaders’ summit
overshadowed by the growing scandal, “will also obviously discuss it and how
to coordinate their response,” a French diplomatic source told AFP.
Outrage among press and politicians
The Welt newspaper called the alleged snooping a “diplomatic bomb” and “a punch in the face of German security agencies”, while a Süddeutsche Zeitungheadline labelled it “the worst imaginable insult”.
Spiegel which broke the story on Wednesday evening said politicians across the spectrum were outraged by the news.
Defence minister Thomas de Maizière said: “The Americans are and will remain out best friends, but it is not on.” He warned there would be consequences for the trans-Atlantic alliance if the allegations were true.
Politicians across party lines condemned a betrayal of trust between the allies, echoing the sharp rebuke Merkel delivered in a phone call to US President Barack Obama the previous day.
If confirmed, the snooping would be “an outrageous act” that “reaches a new level” and would be “roundly condemned”, said the chief whip of Merkel’s conservatives, Michael Grosse-Brömer said. He added it would be a “massive breach of trust”.
The leader of the far-left Linke party, Gregor Gysi, found sharper words, saying the “insolent actions of the USA must be stopped” and that the US “is not a power that owns the world”.
The Greens party sharply attacked Merkel’s government for having declared the National Security Agency (NSA) spying affair – centred on the surveillance of millions of citizens’ phone calls, emails, chats and other communications – effectively over in August.
“It’s scandalous that the government appeased and obscured throughout the entire NSA affair, but that now, when it comes to confidentiality of communications of the chancellor, Merkel voices personal indignation in a phone call to the American president,” Greens lawmaker Konstantin von Notz
told the Handelsblatt daily’s website.
The Welt also recalled how little Merkel did when it was citizens, not herself, who were being spied on, according to the claims of fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Bild said the German government’s “strongly-worded” statement was as critical as it could be while still being diplomatic.
Meanwhile the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said: “A fundamental right, the right to confidential communication no longer exists.”