US: We spied on you Europeans but we can still be chums. Right?
Steelie Neelie: If I were a US cloud provider, I'd be quite frustrated with my government
High-ranking Eurocrats are expected to begin crisis talks on digital surveillance with American officials on Monday.
Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė, whose country will take up the EU presidency today , said she hoped to piggyback discussions on Edward Snowden and the PRISM system on top of trade talks.
The EU and the US will start hammering out the details of a transatlantic trade and investment partnership on Monday, which Eurocrats hope could create the largest free trade zone in the world.
According to a report on a European news site, the trade talks will be supplemented by a discussion on data protection and another on intelligence matters.
European politicians will seek promises that the US will stop spying on them, as well as information about what surveillance it has already carried out. Grybauskaitė said that President Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel had spoken on the phone and agreed to work together to deal with the spying crisis.
The EU has also written to William Hague and asked him to explain the British Tempora programme, used by GCHQ to indiscriminately snoop on emails, messages and phone calls.
“We have the US attorney general’s letter to the EU, with a proposal to meet as soon as possible. There is clear possibility that these meetings could take place on 8 July, especially on the data-protection group,” Grybauskaitė said.
“But these two groups will work in parallel to the free-trade negotiations. So we hope that we are going to be able to manage these two parallel processes, not jeopardising our future trade negotiations with our partners. And the questions will be resolved in a way that will satisfy us with the received information."
The new EU top dog will not push the Americans to apologise, she insisted.
"They are open to cooperate, they are open to explain, and this is important for future cooperation, having in mind intelligence security for both regions concerning international terrorism. Of course, data protection is absolutely essential, it is an absolute priority for us to be protected, and here we need very clear answers.
“I don’t seek an apology from anybody, I seek information, I seek results. That’s it,” she added.
The new EU President also warned against accepting Edward Snowden's leaked information without first checking its veracity, particularly as Russia was being left out of geopolitically sensitive free trade talks. Snowden is reported to be staying in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after a flight from Hong Kong landed 12 days ago.
She added: “If the information is passed from Moscow you need to be cautious five times even more [sic]. Why we are so careful? Exactly because of our experience with this neighbour. We are very careful because of this very interesting timing, when this information became available to the public. So before everything is clarified, we cannot trust, or use this."
EU digital veep “Steelie” Neelie Kroes also released a long statement on the "consequences of living in an age of total information". She warned that American cloud providers could suffer.
"If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government or their assurances, then maybe they won't trust US cloud providers either. That is my guess. And if I am right then there are multi-billion euro consequences for American companies," Steelie Neelie wrote.
"If I were an American cloud provider, I would be quite frustrated with my government right now. I do not have an agenda here: I am committed to open markets, to liberal values, and the opportunities of new digital innovations. Yet even I am thinking twice about whether there is such a thing as a level playing field when it comes to the cloud." ®