German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Wednesday that country who spies on their allies risk destroying trust, resulting in less rather than more security.
Ms. Merkel used her inaugural address to Parliament after her re-election to slam the United States and Britain over their spy programs. Among the allegations to surface from secret U.S. government documents released by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden last year are that friendly countries and their leaders including Merkel have been the target of electronic eavesdropping.
The U.S. says its surveillance programmes are focused on threats to national security, including terrorism.
“Actions where the ends justify the means, where everything that is technically possible is done, harms trust,” Ms. Merkel said. “It sows distrust. In the end there will be less, not more, security.”
The German leader said her government felt a responsibility to protect the privacy rights of its citizens, too. But she rejected calls to pressure Washington into signing a “no spy” agreement between the two countries by suspending trade talks between the U.S. and the European Union.
“I am leading these talks with the force of our arguments,” she said. “I think we have good ones.”
She indicated she did not expect any easy solution, saying “it’s a long path ahead.”
Ms. Merkel also said despite the recent friction, the “trans-Atlantic partnership remains of outstanding importance.”
“Germany cannot wish for a better partner than the United States of America,” she said.
That remark drew immediate criticism by opposition Left Party leader Gregor Gysi for what he called her “submissiveness toward the United States.”
Ms. Merkel has accepted an invitation from U.S. President Barack Obama to visit Washington in the coming months, though no date has been set. Her spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters Wednesday that the spying issue would be discussed during the visit.