• France's news in English

France wants trade talks suspended over spying

AFP/The Local · 3 Jul 2013, 12:46

Published: 03 Jul 2013 12:46 GMT+02:00

France wants the temporary suspension of talks on a huge EU-US free trade pact after allegations of widespread US spying on European offices, the French government's spokeswoman said on Wednesday. However Paris looks as though it is on a collision course with Berlin, with the German government saying the trade talks should go ahead as planned.

"This is not about stopping negotiations on the free trade agreement, but it does seem wise to temporarily suspend them, probably for a period of 15 days, to avoid controversy and to give time to obtain the requested information," Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said after a cabinet session.

The call comes just a day after French president François Holland called for Europe to show a united front in response to the spying allegations.

"Europe must have a coordinated, common position on the requirements we need to come up with and the explanations we must ask for," Hollande said as he met his Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaite, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, in Paris.

On Tuesday Hollande said he believed EU nations must decide on a common position before the EU-US free trade talks take place.

SEE ALSO: Pressure mounts for France to grant Snowden asylum

However there was no sign on Wednesday of any common position being found as Germany insisted the EU-US trade talks should go ahead as planned.

"The (EU) Commission wants to start negotiations on July 8th, and in this it has the support of the German government," said the spokesman for the German Chancellor Steffen Seibert.

"We want this free trade agreement and we want to start the talks now," he said.

Seibert added that, in its dialogue with the United States, "Europe will find a way to discuss the issues that are very important to us, issues such as data protection and privacy".

Speculation has been mounting since the spying revelations broke that the trade talks could be in jeopardy. Earlier in the week European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the EU could not negotiate "if there is any doubt that our partners are bugging the offices of European negotiators", she said.

However EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters later on Wednesday: "We have agreed today the following: we are committed to the transatlantic
partnership" but want working groups to analyse the impact of US surveillance practices,  .

SEE ALSO: Snowden affair - Bolivians protest at French embassy in Le Paz'

 Barroso's office said he had ordered a full security sweep of all its premises worldwide.

And one European Union source said officials could not simply brush the allegations aside.

"This goes far beyond the requirements of national security," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It is a breach of trust and we are at the beginning of something very serious."

Olaf Boehnke, head of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) in Berlin believes suspending the talks would send the right message to Washington.

"The United States is too important to Europe to be treated like some kind of rogue nation like Iran or China but it would be a mistake for Europe if they just carried on with business as usual," Boehnke told The Local.

"European nations should not just allow the US to say 'ok it was a mistake it won't happen again'. It was a violation of civil liberties. To install bugging devices and wire taps in the offices of high ranking EU officials is a serious interference and there has to be consequences even if it's just a delay to the free trade talks."

"The US has a major interests in these negotiations. They are not just one sided," added Boehnke who believes France and Germany's divided stance over the Free talks may just be ploy.

"Maybe Merkel and Hollande are playing good cop bad cop with the United States," he said.

France has taken the lead in raising concerns over the spying revelations attributed to Snowden, a former contractor with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Reports in the Guardian and Der Spiegel have detailed widespread covert surveillance by the NSA of EU offices, including diplomatic missions in Washington and at the United Nations in New York, as well as at the 28-member bloc's Brussels headquarters.

Germany and France both said the US ambassadors to their countries had been invited to discuss the issue.

On Monday, the French president said Paris had demanded answers from Washington about reports that the US National Security Agency (NSA) bugged European offices and embassies.

"We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies," he told journalists during a visit to the western city of Lorient.

"We ask that this immediately stop," he added.

Related articles

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Air France and pilots back on speaking terms
A picture taken on October 9, 2015 shows the facade of the headquarters of the airline company Air France KLM in Paris. Photo: AFP

Air France and pilots back on speaking terms

28 minutes ago

Air France resumed negotiations with pilots' unions on Friday for the first time since one of its executives had his shirt torn off by an angry mob after the airline unveiled plans for job cuts.

France in the autumn: Ten stunning images
The Chateau d'Aiguines in southern France. Photo: Sam2907/Flickr

France in the autumn: Ten stunning images

1 hour ago

Some would argue that France is never prettier than in the autumn... and after seeing this set of pictures you might be inclined to agree.

French hotel industry to 'go hard' after Airbnb
The rise of Airbnb has angered the French hotel industry who say the game is no longer fair. Photo: AFP

French hotel industry to 'go hard' after Airbnb

3 hours ago

The head of France's hoteliers union (UMIH) has fired a warning to Airbnb telling The Local that the suffering hotel industry will "go hard" after the room sharing website in a bid to level out "unfair competition".

Education in France
The troubles with French universities laid bare
Students in Lyon. Photo: AFP

The troubles with French universities laid bare

4 hours ago

Classrooms overflowing, a serious lack of funding, and a flailing reputation abroad... what exactly is wrong with France's university system? The Local's Oliver Gee takes a closer look.

France's Muslim men suffer CV discrimination
Muslim men were much less likely to get called in compared to Catholic men. Photo: Nguyen Vu Hung/Flickr

France's Muslim men suffer CV discrimination

5 hours ago

A practising Muslim man is four times less likely to get a job interview in France than a Catholic counterpart, according to a study published on Thursday.

France hits Isis targets in Syria a second time
A file image of Rafale jets. Photo: AFP

France hits Isis targets in Syria a second time

8 hours ago

French warplanes carried out a second wave of strikes overnight on Islamic State targets in Syria, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.

Video emerges of French train hero's stabbing
CCTV footage shows Stone fighting several men in Sacramento. Photo: YouTube/Screenshot

Video emerges of French train hero's stabbing

1 day ago

VIDEO: Spencer Stone, one of the three Americans who helped foil a terror attack on a French train, is in hospital in California after he was stabbed while apparently coming to a woman's rescue. A CCTV video has emerged of the stabbing.

France pays ex-convict over smoking cell mates
Photo: Raul Lieberwirth/Flickr

France pays ex-convict over smoking cell mates

9 hours ago

An ex-prisoner in France has successfully sued the state for placing him in a cell with smokers, a court in the northwestern town of Caen said on Thursday.

France adopts bill to keep minors from jihad
Around 500 French nationals are thought to be in Syria or Iraq. Photo: AFP

France adopts bill to keep minors from jihad

9 hours ago

French lawmakers adopted a draft law Thursday that will require minors to have permission from their parents or legal guardians before leaving the country in a bid to curb departures for jihad in Iraq or Syria.

Strike sees rubbish pile up on Paris streets
Rubbish piles up in front of a Parisian doorway. Photo: Patrick Auzou/Twitter

Strike sees rubbish pile up on Paris streets

1 day ago

Around 3,000 tonnes of (extra) rubbish have accumulated on the streets of Paris as a strike by the city's rubbish collectors enters its fourth day.

How to find a graduate job in France
The pro-women French TV ad that was axed because it was too sexist
The secret to more travel for less
French bakers in trouble with the law for... working too often
What's on in France: Ten great things to do in October
French car makes it from Paris to Bordeaux... without a driver
This pic was enough to see a French beauty queen stripped of her crown
Analysis & Opinion
Opinion: Tearing suits of Air France execs isn't great for France's image
Opinion: France should follow UK and teach drivers not punish them
Paris: See how rundown Gare du Nord became one big disco
When angry French workers target their bosses (and it pays off)
French Riviera floods: Marineland park left under sea of mud
IN PICTURES: French Riviera ravaged by 'apocalyptic' floods
Looters arrested after deadly floods strike southern France
Eight top vegetarian restaurants in France
Indecent exposure: French cops drop trousers at British war memorial
Please France can we just have one emergency phone number
French study: Passive smoking likely to cause kids behavioural problems
Here are 12 reasons why it's worth staying in France
Locals shocked as Nazi banner unfurled in Nice
Burger King to swallow up Quick in France then take on 'McDo'
OPINION: France's jobless benefit system shouldn't be derided
A Day Without Cars: The ten Paris streets you just have to walk down
jobs available