The recent news reports on US intelligence operations in, and possibly also against, Europe are highly disturbing. Until now, almost all information used for media reporting trace back to former US national security agency contractor Edward Snowden. Should his assertions prove to be true, consequences ought to be considered.
However, we should not jump to premature conclusions at this point. At first, these allegations must be thoroughly investigated and it has to be verified on which legal basis these operations might have been conducted. It is, of course, essential to find out whether and to what extent the laws of the European Union and its member states have been violated. The legal situation is extremely complex and should be analysed carefully - facts first.
But most importantly we should not put at risk one of the largest transatlantic projects of this decade, the TTIP. I strongly oppose any suspension of the TTIP negotiations. As I emphasised in plenary last week, to take TTIP hostage for Prism would not only punish the Americans, but would also have dire consequences for the European economy. The conclusion of a transatlantic free trade agreement would create much needed jobs and provide new economic growth in Europe. Something we should not ignore - especially in times of economic crisis. Instead of demanding to put TTIP on hold we should consider a mutual understanding that neither the negotiations nor persons and institutions involved should be subjected to offensive intelligence measures by either side during the negotiations.
Despite all the concerns of today, strategically we should keep in mind our transatlantic friendship, our common history, mutual values as well as joint achievements. Security is part of this long-term solid partnership. As events progress it becomes more and more obvious that Europe, too, has benefited from intelligence provided by US authorities, especially regarding international counter-terrorism and proliferation.
If there is something we should learn from this affair it should be: The European Union has to develop its own capabilities. I have long been calling for this. As EPP rapporteur for the research programme Horizon 2020 and the European network and information security agency (ENISA) I demand an increase of the security research budget and the broadening of ENISA's tasks since long, inter alia regarding cyber-security capabilities. I keep voting to provide Europe's agency for network- and information-security with appropriate funds and responsibilities, even against contrary positions by the council.
I very much welcome the talks between Washington and the European Union and I also welcome that a German delegation will travel to Washington this week in order to investigate the allegations. The experts should further scrutinise whether faults or even the suspension of negotiations on the US-European trade and investment partnership might not be for the benefit of third parties.
In any case we should keep calm and not trifle the transatlantic friendship, with our common history, our common values and all our common achievements.
Security and safety are part of this partnership too. It is already apparent that Europe also benefited from the knowledge of the American services and their alliance partners in terms of security-sensitive operations such as in the areas of international terrorism and proliferation.
I appeal to the authorities in charge with the investigations to make all relevant findings available to the public as soon as possible, to allow for a fact-based debate. The more true facts are made available the better we will be able to consider and to discuss consequences. As I said - Facts first, in the common interest of transatlantic economical and security benefits.