WASHINGTON – A possible casualty of National Security Agency disclosures that it has snooped on Americans and allies both is an important strategy for a free trade zone that would include all of the European Union and the United States.
Calls already are coming, especially from the Germans, to halt those ongoing discussions.
As WND recently reported, the U.S. and the E.U. are on the verge of establishing a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement – possibly by next month – in an effort to maintain the West’s global pre-eminence as economic momentum is shifting toward Asia.
Implementation of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTP, would benefit most of the 27-member E.U. countries as well as the U.S., especially in lowering trade barriers that add cost and adversely affects employment.
Projections are that some 181,000 jobs would be created in Europe with a per-capita income increase of more than 4.5 percent, with Germany a beneficiary of some of the biggest gains.
However, former CIA employee Edward Snowden, who divulged secrets that the NSA was scooping up communications of Americans, also claimed with the release of top secret documents that the agency had been spying on the offices of the E.U.
Those include diplomatic representation in Washington, New York and Brussels, the headquarters for the E.U.
Quoting German and European parliament officials, the German periodical Der Spiegel, which initially released revelations from Snowden on U.S. eavesdropping on E.U. offices, revealed that the U.S. spying on the E.U. countries could endanger the TTIP.
“This is a very serious problem for the trans-Atlantic relationship,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“It will make Washington’s work with Europe more difficult on a full range of issues, such as the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement,” she said. “Add this to a pre-election environment in Germany and the challenge becomes greater.”
Snowden’s revelations showed that Germany in particular was a significant target of the NSA spying activities.
“The monitoring of friends – this is unacceptable, it can’t be tolerated,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “We’re no longer in the Cold War.”
Now, the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office is looking into whether NSA’s spying violated laws aimed at protecting the privacy of German citizens.
European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding also has suggested that the TTIP project may be endangered. She expressed concern that the U.S. has been engaged in industrial espionage through the use of the NSA electronic eavesdropping.
Analysts say that this case reflects a different attitude between Europe and the U.S. regarding digital privacy and data protection. Because of the experiences from World War II, Europeans have been very vocal about maintaining their privacy. In addition, Europeans recently have demanded stricter regulations over Facebook and Google for the same reason.
“Given our history,” German politician Malte Spitz recently wrote in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, “We Germans are not willing to trade in our liberty for potentially better security. Germans have experienced firsthand what happens when the government knows too much about someone.”
Other E.U. policymakers also now are expressing concern that the ongoing talks for the free trade agreement between the U.S. and the E.U. may be in jeopardy.
They want full clarification from U.S. officials on the extent of the NSA eavesdropping, an episode which is dealing a “blow for the relations between the E.U. and the United States,” according to European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
Even before the latest revelations when Snowden first revealed that personal data of citizens in Europe were being monitored, members of the European Parliament called for tougher online regulations given the ongoing E.U. discussions with the U.S. on the transatlantic trade talks.
Schulz said that at the time he had spoken to U.S. officials, he had voiced concern that such monitoring of European citizens’ electronic communications was a “very serious blow for trust and certainty” if this proves true.
“If these reports are true, then it is abhorrent,” said Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. “It would seem that the secret services have gotten out of control. The U.S. should monitor their own secret services rather than their allies.”
“The U.S. justifies everything as being part of the fight against terrorism,” he added. “But the E.U. and its diplomats are not terrorists. We need a guarantee from the very highest level that it stops immediately.”