French President Francois Hollande has emerged with egg on his face after influential French daily, Le Monde, revealed that the French Directorate for External Security (DGSE) had its own spy programme which monitored not just foreigners but French nationals as well. “The French intelligence agencies collect and store en mass telephone conversations and internet traffic. We have our own Big Brother watching us,” Le Monde said.
Mr. Hollande had been the only European head of state or government to have personally spoken out so sharply against the U.S. PRISM programme.
In another embarrassment and a climb down for the French President talks between the United States and the European Union on a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are to go ahead on Monday as scheduled despite threats from EU leaders that discussions will be stalled or delayed unless the U.S. comes up with credible explanations for its PRISM spying programme. Last Monday, French President issued his threat to call off talks.
However, talks between EU and U.S. security officials will also take place on Monday 8 July in Washington. France had warned that talks on trade could not go ahead unless Washington gave “guarantees” that its spy programme had been “stopped”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had firmly put her foot down to say that planned trade negotiations must go ahead as scheduled and there the matter appears to have ended. It was the Chancellor’s idea that the two meetings be held at the same time and in tandem.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso tried to hedge his bets when he declared to the press that “There can’t be opening of trade negotiations without there being at the same time as an opening of discussions with the U.S. on the activity of the intelligence services in our countries and protection of private data.”
So, European security experts will meet their U.S. counterparts at the same time that talks on the world’s biggest-ever free trade treaty kick off. But Britain as usual has stuck its oar in with the Cameron government objecting to the idea of an intelligence meet twinned with trade talks.
The fact that the trade talks are too important to be scuttled was underlined by the fact that the European Parliament meeting in Strasburg rejected calls from leftist parliamentarians to post pone or freeze the talks. But the Parliament did demand “immediate clarification” from Washington. The negotiations are expected to last over 18 months.