​Ukraine conflict, US spying contradict EU values – German vice-chancellor

Sigmar Gabriel, German Minister for Economic Affairs (Reuters/Fabian Bimmer)
The values of the EU are put at risk by the lingering conflict in Ukraine, as well as by actions of the NSA, according to an opinion piece written by German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

Gabriel, the economy minister and leader of the German Social-Democratic party (SPD) wrote an opinion piece for Bild newspaper, published on Friday.

“The EU stands for the values of the West – the individual freedom, democracy and rule-of-law state. These values are threatened. In Ukraine the same way as through the terror of the Islamic State,” wrote Gabriel.

READ MORE: Ukraine humanitarian crisis ‘one of the world’s worst’ – UN refugee agency

“We can effectively defend our values only if we apply especially high standards to ourselves. That is why mass surveillance conducted by the NSA is as little consistent as the death penalty, whose introduction is discussed in EU-member state Hungary.”

Gabriel also speculated on the cooperation in the European Union, saying that “more courage for different speeds” is needed for proper collaboration.

“Some – especially France and Germany – need to lead the way, for example in energy policy or in the cooperation of economic and finance policy. Others can follow when they are ready,” he added. “Not everyone needs to do everything. But we need deeper cooperation under the roof of the European Union.”

On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron are to hold talks in Berlin to discuss possible EU reform. The UK doesn’t favor the ever increasing powers of Brussels and greater political integration.

READ MORE: ‘German intelligence dependent on NSA’ – Berlin’s spy chief

“The tasks that lie before us are so big, that every country is too small to solve them alone. Even strong Germany. For this reason it's time for Europe to reform,” Gabriel wrote, pointing out that the reform could help the EU get more social and fair.

In April, Germany saw another development of the NSA scandal, as Zeit Online revealed that Germany's BND intelligence agency had been sending enormous amounts of phone and text data to the US National Security Agency (NSA) each month – some 1.3 billion pieces monthly – that occurred for a ten-year-long period of time. One third of the society felt deceived by Angela Merkel’s covert policy, regarding the connections between the agencies.

Ukraine has been engulfed in internal conflict since last April, after Kiev’s army began a crackdown operation in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk after they refused to recognize Kiev’s coup-imposed government. The civil conflict has already taken lives of over 6,200 civilian lives, according to the latest UN figures.