The White House is now involved in a major diplomatic incident after the German government said that it had received information that US spies may have tapped Angela Merkel’s personal mobile phone for a number of years. Angela Merkel is now demanding answers from President Obama who assured Ms Merkel that she is not under surveillance from the US government. The President promised her that US intelligence ‘is not monitoring and will not monitor’ her communications. But this has not satisfied many Germans. One German source has said ‘They speak only about the present and the future- we “are not” monitoring and we “will not” monitor, but not about the past’. The Germans are therefore concluding that Ms Merkel may have been spied on in the past but the White House is making no comment on these allegations.
The fact that such an inquiry was made to the American President shows how far the trust between the two countries has broken down. This is also is not the first incident in which America has been accused of spying on their allies. In France Le Monde claimed that the US National Security Agency was collecting millions of records of French telephone calls. Of course these incidents are not going to be helpful at a time when relations between Europe and the US are weakening and it does not seem that this matter is going to disappear. It is believed that President Hollande is place the issue of US bugging on the agenda at the next European Union summit.
So can relations between Europe and the US be fixed quickly? One of Mrs Merkel’s closest advisors has stated that the Americans ‘are’ and ‘remain’ our best friends but he also added that Europe cannot return to ‘business as usual’ with its relationship to Washington. There are also claims that Europe does not want this to be a long-lasting rift because of trade. With the Americans and Europe discussing a free trade deal with huge benefits to both sides, neither would want this incident to jeopardise it. Therefore, the future is unclear. But what is clear is that these revelations have done damage. With France and Germany, the two most influential countries in Europe not letting this pass, it shows that we might have to wait rather a long time for relations to be fixed.