France has urged the European Union to postpone talks with the United States on a major free trade agreement due to the recent allegations about US spying on EU offices.
The EU-US trade talks are set to begin in Washington on July 8, but the revelations of US spying on European diplomatic missions have cast them into doubt.
French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said on Wednesday that the negotiations should be delayed until Washington provides the European governments with answers over the spying allegations.
“This is not about stopping negotiations on the free trade agreement, but it does seem wise to temporarily suspend them, probably for a period of 15 days, to avoid controversy and to give time to obtain the requested information,” Vallaud-Belkacem said after a cabinet session.
She further said that for holding talks in a proper manner “both sides must be able to meet in confidence.”
Recent reports in the UK daily Guardian and German newsmagazine Der Spiegel have revealed extensive secret surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) of EU offices, including diplomatic missions in Washington and at the United Nations in New York and also at the EU headquarters in Brussels.
Der Spiegel said in its June 29 report that the NSA had gained access to EU internal computer networks.
Revelations about the US surveillance program and its widespread spying on other countries were made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Several European political groups, including the Greens faction in the European Parliament, have called on the EU governments to give asylum to Snowden.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said in an opinion piece, co-written with the head of media-rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in French newspaper Le Monde that “European Union states, first and foremost France and Germany, should reserve him (Snowden) their warmest welcome.”
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