‘Business as usual’ after NSA spying scandal

Harsh condemnations from Europe over reports of NSA spying on prominent EU leaders will do nothing to derail bilateral trade ties, former UN diplomat Lode Vanoost told RT. He says economic negotiations will remain on track as the media scandal dissipates.

RT:It looks like Europeans are making strong statements there but when do you think they’ll start switching from words to action?

Lode Vanoost: Well, of course the situation is quite historic in its proportions - it’s scandalous. There’s nothing comparable in recent history. So, what I’m saying is, so far my guess is if history is any lesson on the EU, they will not take any real measures. It will remain statements meant for public opinion.

RT:Well, let’s take a look at the history of the relationship regarding data protection, and EU data protection specifically. All the measures were supposed to be launched two years ago but were sort of prevented from happening by Washington lobbies. So, will Brussels succeed this time?

LV: Well, if you say Brussels you should distinguish between the European Commission and the European Parliament. The European Parliament is certainly going to demand some strong measures. They’re going to go back on propositions that they’ve made in the past and they’re going to say ‘now this has to change’. There is also talk about ending the SWIFT banking agreement with the US incorporation on banking issues. On that level, yes, they will do something. The whole matter is the European Parliament is not the one that really decides – it’s the European Commission. And there we already have a statement by Karel De Gucht, the EU Commissioner on Trade, who says ‘no no, we should go on with the negotiations – this new free trade agreement. So what does that tell me? It tells me – just like I said – that on the long term, in a few weeks, after the media turns down the issue a bit, they will just go on – business as usual. That is my expectation.

RT:Well, let’s take a look at Germany and France here, who say they are determined to establish the so-called no-spy agreement with the US before the end of the year. What do you make of this? Do you see it as a sign of progress?

LV: No, absolutely not. What is this? You catch an ally spying on you and you say ‘well we need a no-spy agreement’. No, what you do, is you take measures, just like Brazil proposed on the 24th September at the UN General Assembly.  If they really mean business, France and Germany, then they’ll say – ‘oh, what Dilma Rousseff President of Brazil proposed on the 24th of September – that’s good idea, these  five principles of having another kind of Internet’. Now, that is something that so far they have not done yet. On the contrary, the statements made by the Brazilian president have been downplayed entirely in the western world.

RT:Well, how can any kind of scaling back and cooperation really work taking into account that many EU intelligence agencies collaborate closely with the NSA?

LV: Well the thing is of course when you collaborate, that sort of presupposes equal partnership. I mean, it’s collaborating with this huge partner on the other side. So it’s basically having their assistant on the side, and, they use their information. There’s another element there. The scandal is now about what the US is doing but so far as I can tell, the European number stays there – own intelligence agencies in my country – in Belgium, in France and Germany – are also doing this kind of spying. So, we have not seen the end of the scandal yet.

RT:Well, looking at the situation that we have here at hand – as we can see the NSA leaks have upset a number of European states and US allies. So where does that in Europe leave the US?

LV: Well, the thing is the economic and political dominance of the US is waning anyway, even before the scandal. And what this is doing is even accelerating this process. I mean, the US may be militarily ruler no. 1 in the world for many years to come, but they are losing ground on the economic issues everywhere. Their problem is not that they have been spying – their problem is -as far as they see it – that they have been caught at spying. That’s another matter altogether. The thing is – why do they do that? Not to chase terrorists. They do that for economic reasons. They want to know what Europe is going to do towards the BRICS countries, towards Asia, towards Africa, they are afraid that they are losing ground…if they see that the Pacific trade agreement is not working out. So yes, they have a big problem.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.