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Hollande to US: Stop spying on us now

France reacted angrily to reports over the weekend that the US had spied on its embassy in Washington DC as well as EU diplomatic missions. President François Hollande has told the US to "immediately stop" spying on French envoys.

Hollande to US: Stop spying on us now
Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP

Allegations that the US used covert surveillance to target the French embassy in Washington DC as well as its envoy to the UN in New York have drawn an angry response from Paris.

Reacting to the reports for the first time on Monday French President François Hollande told Washington DC that the covert surveillance of its envoys must "stop immediately".

"We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies,"Hollande told journalists during a visit to the northwestern city of Lorient. "We ask that this stop immediately ."

Hollande said "enough elements have already been gathered for us to ask for explanations" from Washington about the spying allegations.

In the latest documents leaked by the fugitive former CIA operative Edward Snowden to the Guardian newspaper it is claimed that the French embassy was one of 38 spying targets conducted by US intelligence services.

Attempts were apparently made to eavesdrop on the French, Italian and Greek embassies in Washington while Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey were all named as subjects of operations in a 2010 document.

The revelations have sent minor tremors around Europe and provoked an angry response in Paris as well as Berlin and Brussels.

Reports in German weekly Der Spiegel on Monday that EU diplomatic missions were also put under secret surveillance have added more fuel to the fire and led to calls in France for talks over a landmark EU-US free trade deal to be binned.

"There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States," Hollande said in an apparent reference to the sensitive talks.

"We know well that there are systems that have to be checked, especially to fight terrorism, but I don't think that it is in our embassies or in the European Union that this threat exists," he said.

And the French Minister of Foreign Trade Nicole Bricq said the upcoming talks on the new trade zone, due to begin next week, could be jeopardised.

"This is a topic that could affect relations between Europe and the United States," she told AFP.

"We must absolutely re-establish confidence… it will be difficult to conduct these extremely important negotiations," she said.

Hollande said he had asked Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to get in touch with US Secretary of State John Kerry immediately "to get all the explanations and all the information."

On Sunday Hollande's Foreign Minister expressed his concern over the revelations.

“These facts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable,” Fabius said.

“We expect the American authorities to, as quickly as possible, allay the legitimate concerns raised by these media revelations,” he added.

One of the leaked US National Security Agency (NSA) files said that intelligence officials targeted embassies and UN missions by implanting bugs in electronic communications gear, tapping into cables and collecting communications using specialized antennae, according to a report on the Guardian's website on Sunday.

The operation against the French mission to the UN was dubbed 'Blackfoot' and the one against its Washington embassy was known as 'Wabash'.

France’s Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said: “It would be an act of unspeakable hostility if European institutions were indeed under the surveillance of the American secret service.”

The allegations have drawn condemnation not just from the government but from across the political spectrum in France.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party said: “We can’t be the poodles of the United States.”

And her nemesis from the far-left, Jean-Luc Melenchon, called for EU-US free trade talks to be broken off in protest over the allegations.

“I demand an immediate halt in negotiations and I demand that France grant asylum to Edward Snowden who is a friend of Europe for unmasking this conspiracy,” he said.

The US said on Sunday it would respond to the EU via diplomatic channels over the bugging allegations.

"While we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations," said a statement from the office of the Director of National Intelligence in Washington.

The US authorities issued an arrest warrant this month for Snowden after he revealed details of NSA's so-called PRISM programme which collects and analyzes information from internet and phone users around the world, with access to data from Google, Yahoo! and other Internet firms.

Snowden remains in political limbo at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after flying in from Hong Kong last week, unable to fly on without legal travel documents or exit the airport without a Russian visa.

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TRAVEL

UPDATE: Is it possible to drive between Spain and the UK via France?

Travelling between Spain and the UK during the pandemic has been very difficult due to border closures, cancelled flights and quarantines, but what is the situation like now? Is it possible to drive between Spain and the UK via France?

Driving between Spain and UK
Photo: Bertsz / 67 images/ Pixabay

Several readers have asked about the restrictions and necessary documents and tests needed to drive to the UK and if it’s possible. Here’s what you need to know.

Travelling by car between the UK and Spain at the moment is possible, but not very easy. Although it’s a lot easier now than it was before the state of alarm ended, it will still involve PCR and/or antigen testing, quarantine, and lots of form-filling. This will mean extra expenses too. 

Spain and France have both updated their rules on travel as restrictions begin to ease. Here’s a look at what you need to know driving between the UK and Spain, via France right now.

Leaving Spain

Movement in Spain has become a lot easier since the end of the state of alarm on May 9th. This means that you can easily drive across regional borders without the need to prove specific reasons.

There may still be certain municipalities or health zones that you might need to avoid because their borders are still closed due to a high number of cases, but for the most part, your drive through Spain, up until the French border, will be easy.

Keep in mind that some regions still have certain restrictions in place such as when bars and restaurants are allowed to open and a few still maintain curfews, so you’ll need to check the rules of those regions you’re planning on driving through.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: What are the post state of alarm restrictions in each region in Spain?

Crossing the French border from Spain

Travel into France is allowed for any reason, including for tourism and family visits. This easing of restrictions was introduced on May 3rd, which saw France opening up both its regional and international borders.

According to the French embassy in Spain: “Entry into the metropolitan territory from a country in the European area is subject to the presentation, by travellers over eleven years of age, of a negative result of a PCR test, carried out within 72 hours prior to departure. This obligation applies to all modes of travel (arrival by road, rail, air or sea)”.

They also state that all travellers will have to present an affidavit/certificate of international travel, certifying that they do not have symptoms of Covid-19 infection and that they are not aware of having been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the fourteen days prior to the trip.

“If you are over eleven years old, you agree that a biological test for SARS-CoV-2 will be carried out upon arrival on French territory” it continues.

The certificate can be downloaded from the website of the French Ministry. The supporting documents must be presented to the control authorities at the border.

The test must be carried out within 72 hours of departing for France and the antigen test is not accepted. You must take a PCR test, otherwise, you’ll be refused entry to France.

A Spanish police officer checks PCR coronavirus tests at the border between Spain and France. Photo: RAYMOND ROIG / AFP

You can drive straight through France, as there’s no quarantine requirement for those coming from inside the EU.

Note that France still has several restrictions in place, but they are gradually easing. As of May 19th, the curfew was extended to 9pm and bars and restaurants were allowed to operate outdoor services only. This means that you’ll need to stop driving and find somewhere to spend the night after the 9pm cut-off time.

If you have to travel past curfew for an essential reason, you will need an attestation permission form, which you can find HERE.

From June 9th, the curfew will be extended again until 11pm and the interiors of bars and restaurants will be allowed to re-open. 

Masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces across the country, and also outdoors in most of the larger towns and cities. If you don’t wear one, you could face a fine of €135.

Entering the UK

On May 17th, the UK government lifted its ban on all non-essential travel abroad and replaced it with the traffic light system, assigning countries to red, amber or green lists, according to their health data.

France and Spain are currently on the amber list, as well as most other European countries, bar Portugal, which is on the green list.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The European countries on England’s ‘amber’ travel list and what that means

This means that you must follow the amber list rules.

The UK government website states that if coming from an amber-list country, even if you’ve been vaccinated, you need to follow these rules before you enter England:

 On arrival in England you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

Children aged 4 and under do not need to take the day 2 or day 8 test.

You may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

The traffic light list only applies to England, but Scotland also has its own traffic-light system, which at the moment has the same green-list countries as England. It is thought that Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to adopt the traffic light system too.

If you’re entering the UK from an amber country, you can go for any reason. It doesn’t have to be an essential trip and entry is not limited to UK nationals or residents.

Find further information on UK travel rules HERE.

If in the future, France makes it onto the green list, then no quarantine will be necessary. Regardless, of this, a negative Covid-19 test is still needed to enter England, plus another test on or before day 2.

What about driving back to Spain?

The UK is still advising against travel to amber countries for leisure or tourism reasons, which France and Spain are both currently on.

This isn’t a travel ban, but the official stand can mean that your travel insurance won’t be valid, so check your policy before you travel.

JUNE UPDATE: From Monday, May 31st, France is tightening up entry requirements for arrivals from the UK, following in the footsteps of Germany and Austria as European countries become increasingly concerned about circulation of the ‘Indian variant’ of Covid in the UK.

So what’s the situation if you are just passing through?

If you are returning to your permanent residence in another EU or Schengen zone country then you can travel, as one of the listed ‘vital reasons’ is returning home. You will, however, need to show some proof of your residency, ideally a residency card.

If you are travelling for another reason you can travel through France, provided you spend less than 24 hours in the country.

The testing requirement applies to all arrivals, even if you are only passing through France, but if you spend less than 24 hours in the country you are not required to quarantine.

You will also need to check the rules in your destination country on arrivals from France. If you are entering France from an EU or Schengen zone country you will need to show a negative Covid test taken within the previous 72 hours and this must be a PCR test. You can enter France for any reason from an EU/Schengen country.

And yes, these rules all apply even to the fully vaccinated.

To find out more about the rules and exceptions for travel between France and the UK click the link below.

READ MORE: Spain-UK road travel – Can I transit through France despite the new Indian variant restrictions?

Currently, the Spanish government website states that only citizens and legal residents of the European Union, Schengen states, Andorra, Monaco, The Vatican and San Marino, as well as those who can demonstrate through documentary evidence an essential need to enter Spain, will be able to enter the country.

However, Spain recently announced that it would welcome British tourists into the country without a negative PCR test from May 24th. 

READ ALSO:

The website also states that “all overland travellers (excluding children under the age of 6 years old) who wish to enter Spain by road from France, are required to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to entry”.

This applies to everyone, even if you have been vaccinated already.

Please note The Local is not able to give advice on individual cases. For more information on international travel to and from Spain, see the government’s website and check the restrictions in your destination country with the appropriate embassy.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I fly from the UK to Spain to visit family or my second home?

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