European countries urge explanation on alleged U.S. spying on Merkel and officials

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

European countries are demanding the United States and Denmark to give explanation as soon as possible on reports that the U.S. intelligence agency had used Danish infrastructure to spy on senior European officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Danish Defense Intelligence Service (FE) has given the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) open internet access to spy on senior politicians of neighboring countries including Germany, Sweden, Norway, and France, Denmark’s national broadcaster DR News reported on Sunday.

Danish Minister of Defense Trine Bramsen responded to media reports by sending an email to DR News, saying that the government will not “enter into speculation about any intelligence matters from the press or others … systematic wiretapping of close allies is unacceptable.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that all must be clarified concerning reports on the U.S. spying and urged “complete transparency and resolution of the matter by our Danish and American partners.”

This “is unacceptable between allies, even less between allies and European partners,” Macron was quoted by French daily Le Monde following a French-German council of ministers. Merkel said she “could only agree” with Macron’s comments, adding she was “reassured” by Bramsen’s condemnation of any such spying.Besides Merkel, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the candidate for chancellor Peer Steinbrueck were among those the NSA had spied on, DR said.

“It is grotesque that friendly intelligence services are indeed intercepting and spying on top representatives of other countries,” Steinbrueck told German broadcaster ARD. “Politically I consider it a scandal.”

In Paris, French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune told France Info radio that the DR report needed to be checked and that, if confirmed, it would be a “serious” matter. “These potential facts, they are serious. They must be checked,” he said, adding there could be “some diplomatic protests.” “It is extremely serious, we need to see if our partners in the EU, the Danes, have committed errors or faults in their cooperation with American services,” he noted.

Jens Holm, a member of the Swedish Parliament, called on investigation into “who exactly was monitored, when and how.” “This is extremely outrageous,” Holms told local media, adding that the situation elicits memories of the Cold War. The governments of Norway and Sweden are pressing the Danish government and demanding immediate answers about the alleged NSA espionage through Danish cables.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said Norway had asked Denmark “for all the information they have.” “It’s unacceptable if countries which have close allied cooperation feel the need to spy on one another,” Solberg told public broadcaster NRK. Norway’s Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen also told broadcaster NRK that the country takes the allegations seriously.

Swedish Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist said on state broadcaster SVT on Sunday that he “asked to be fully informed about matters concerning Swedish citizens, companies and interests.”

“And then we have to see how the answer sounds from a political side in Denmark,” Hultqvist said, adding that he had been “in contact with Denmark’s defense minister to ask if Danish platforms have been used to spy on Swedish politicians.”

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