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National Security Agency

"Talks are important and necessary"

Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes that the expert-level talks in Washington D.C. about the procedures adopted by the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) will produce "insights and important conclusions". She was speaking at Schloss Meseberg, where she was meeting with representatives of the two sides of industry.

"National Security Agency" radar installation in the USA The EU-USA working group will be looking at supervision of secret services and data protection Photo: picture-alliance/Landov

It is important first of all "to examine the facts" and to this end "talks are important and necessary," said the Chancellor. In a telephone conversation on Wednesday evening, President Barack Obama took her concerns and misgivings very serious, she reported. She had made it quite clear, "that espionage targeting European Union facilities is not the conduct we expect of friends". We are no longer in the middle of the Cold War after all.

She is firmly convinced, "that the working structures we have put in place to get to the bottom of things are indispensable," said Angela Merkel. She hopes that the meetings between the European Union and those responsible on the American side, as well as bilateral talks, will produce "insights and important conclusions".

Delegation to visit Washington D.C.

The Chancellor welcomed Barack Obama’s announcement that he would be providing information about the procedures of the National Security Agency (NSA). His telephone conversation with the Chancellor focused on media reports about alleged activities of the NSA.

In the coming week, a delegation comprising representatives of the intelligence services, the Federal Chancellery and various federal ministries will visit Washington D.C. It will provide an "opportunity for intensive discussion" and allow participants to explore the possibility of more in-depth cooperation, reported government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

The Chancellor and President Obama were in favour of the planned EU-USA expert working group starting talks on 8 July.

Steffen Seibert reported that the meeting would focus primarily on the monitoring of intelligence services, intelligence gathering, data protection and protecting privacy.

Free trade still on the agenda

With a view to trade between the European Union and the USA, the Chancellor and President Obama had both confirmed their "strong interest" in the planned transatlantic trade and investment partnership, added Steffen Seibert. Negotiations continue to enjoy "top priority" and will begin on 8 July.

In close contact

The German government is "in close contact" with our American partners, said the government spokesman. Speaking in Berlin, he said that progress has been made over the last few days, especially in terms of "organising the investigative process". " This will then be fleshed out with the substantial issues."

The German government noted last weekend’s reports on the scale and sort of monitoring undertaken by American authorities with amazement and dismay. The government expressed this to the White House.

On Monday the government spokesman said, "We’re not in the middle of the Cold War any more." Bugging the premises of friends is unacceptable. He expressly pointed out, however, that reports cannot necessarily be taken as gospel and that the facts of the matter must firstly be clarified in full.

Data protection and internal security

The German government continues to take a very serious view of reports on monitoring programmes such as Prism (Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management) and Tempora, and is pushing for clarification.

The German government feels itself duty bound to protect the interest of its citizens. On the one hand it believes in ensuring maximum protection of private data. On the other hand, of course, German citizens should also be protected from terrorist attacks or similar threats.

Information gathering must remain in proportion

The parallel needs to protect the nation against terrorist attacks and to protect privacy often conflict. They must however be weighed up and reconciled. The German government is discussing and negotiating with its American and British partners on what can be considered to be in proportion in terms of intelligence gathering.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert stated, "Nobody is surprised," that the NSA tries to gather intelligence. The critical issue is, though, to retain a sense of proportion.

Internet offers new opportunities and new threats

The free and democratic constitutional order demands that people can feel safe. We must not lose sight of the fact that the internet also offers the enemies of fundamental rights based on free democratic principles new opportunities, and that it brings with it new threats.

The Chancellor made it quite clear to President Obama in their discussion about Prism (Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management) that the principle of proportionality must be guaranteed.

It might be reasonable or necessary to gather data on the internet, for instance to prevent a terrorist attack. But it is only acceptable to gather data if the benefits are not completely disproportionate to the disadvantages.

All pros and cons must be weighed up.