Tuesday

18th May 2021

France and Germany eat their words on US trade talks

  • Merkel hosted a summit on youth unemployment but talked about the US spy affair too (Photo: Valentina Pop)

France and Germany have backed down on threats to suspend US trade talks, after the US offered to set up more "working groups" on data protection.

EU leaders meeting in Berlin on Wednesday (3 July) for a summit on youth unemployment said the US trade negotiations will start next week as planned.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The announcement comes after France and Germany led EU criticism of the US in recent days.

French President Francois Hollande's spokesman had said on Wednesday morning the talks should be put on hold until the US fully clarifies if it is snooping on EU citizens and bugging EU offices in Brussels, New York and Washington.

But on Wednesday evening Hollande said the US offer on extra working groups is good enough.

"The French position is that there can be no start of trade negotiations without at the same time opening talks and verifications on data protection. This is a compromise, but a good one," he said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

Merkel's spokesman said earlier this week the talks are in doubt because the US had broken trust. He dubbed the US operation Cold-War-type espionage.

But Merkel also struck a conciliatory note on Wednesday.

"I want to underline that we are all very concerned about some activities and we have to clarify if and how they took place. The US has promised to quickly set up these working groups. Time is pressing," she said.

For his part, Barroso talked up the importance of the trade pact.

"Regarding the trade deal, both the EU and the US have a strong interest to conclude a treaty which would have huge potential for economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic," he noted.

"Negotiations are and remain a top priority. In parallel, it is important to clear some concerns on intelligence activities, privacy and data protection. We agreed today we are committed to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but in parallel we will set up working groups that will analyse intelligence activities and the collection and use of data," he added.

He said US attorney general Eric Holder has promised justice commissioner Viviane Reding to create the groups as soon as possible.

Previous groups were created when media uncovered other US mass-surveillance programmes on EU bank data (Swift) and personal records of European air passengers (PNR) a few years ago.

But the US intelligence gathering has continued, with some minor adjustments on data protection.

Hollande was also asked about allegedly blocking Bolivian President Evo Morales from flying over France on Tuesday.

Morales was suspected to be flying to Bolivia from Moscow with Edward Snowden, the man who leaked documents on the US spy operation.

Morales' flight had to land in Vienna, where it was searched, but Snowden was not on board.

Bolivia and other Latin American leaders voiced outrage on Wednesday at what they called US and EU "imperialism."

A crowd in La Paz burned the French flag and threw stones at the French embassy.

Hollande in Berlin said the fiasco was a simple mistake.

He said he had conflicting information on "two planes" and that when he found out Morales was on one of them, he "personally" gave it permission to fly over France, but by then it was too late.

Trade officials 'optimistic' following EU-US talks

EU and US trade negotiators signalled their satisfaction at the close of the first week of talks aimed at securing a potentially lucrative bilateral trade agreement worth €119 billion per year.

News in Brief

  1. Schäuble: Germany must protect Jews from antisemitism
  2. French row on far-right EU fraud gets ugly
  3. UK: Indian variant to become dominant strain within days
  4. More than 5,000 migrants breach fortress Spain in Morocco
  5. Scientists question Sputnik V results in The Lancet
  6. UK asks EU for more time on Northern Ireland border
  7. EU Commission appoints first ever anti-racism coordinator
  8. Frontex: Irregular border crossings 'on rise'

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. What does EU want for Kosovo visa-free travel?
  2. EU and US reach steel truce in effort to reset relations
  3. EU unveils roadmap to green maritime activities
  4. We Palestinians are looking to the EU to uphold our rights
  5. EU criticises Israeli bombing of Gaza Strip media office
  6. First aid for Polish democracy
  7. 40 years of AIDS is more than enough
  8. EU impunity for Israel creating 'horror' in Gaza

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us