Merkel is planning to send the heads of Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies to the United States to discuss the issue on “relatively short notice,” a spokesman said Friday, an unusual measure that suggests Germany is pushing for a quick end to the diplomatic uproar and the domestic outrage accompanying it. He said the visit would aim to clarify past U.S. spying efforts on German soil.
France and Germany “individually will get in contact with the United States and the security community there and try to work out a framework for further cooperation,” Merkel said at a news conference in Brussels, where she was attending a European summit.
She did not give details and declined to say whether she was seeking an agreement along the lines of a mutual “no-spying” pact between United States, Britain and several other English-speaking countries.
“We need something clear-cut that is also in line with the spirit of an alliance,” Merkel said. She said she hopes to achieve an agreement by the end of the year.
Hollande echoed Merkel’s comments. “There are behaviors and practices that cannot be accepted,” he said. “What is in play is preserving our relationship with the United States.”
The extent of the potential damage to other cooperative efforts between the United States and Europe remained unclear Friday. Merkel said she did not think that complex negotiations over a U.S.-E.U. trade pact should be put on hold, as several top European officials had suggested Thursday.
But she expressed sympathy for an effort in the European Parliament to pause a program that gives U.S. intelligence agencies access to information about the financial transactions of suspected terrorists that is routed through the Brussels-based electronic banking system known as SWIFT.
In a statement Friday, the leaders of the 28 E.U. member nations said they “took note of the intention of France and Germany to seek bilateral talks with the USA with the aim of finding, before the end of the year, an understanding on mutual relations in that field.” Other E.U. countries “are welcome to join this initiative,” the statement said.
In Washington on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said no decision had been made on proposed talks with the European Union about surveillance.
“It is no secret that over the last few months a series — these unauthorized disclosures of classified information have, of course, led to criticisms of our intelligence activity by many of our friends and partners,” Psaki said. “It’s created significant challenges in our relationships with some of our partners and has been, of course, a public distraction, as we even saw over the last couple of days.”