European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday he will leave it to national authorities to deal with allegations that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency had helped the US to spy on EU institutions.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday that Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency helped the US National Security Agency (NSA) carry out “political espionage” by surveilling “top officials at the French Foreign Ministry, the Elysée Palace and European Commission.”
But Juncker and other Commission officials downplayed the significance of the revelation, leaving it to Germany to address, despite the international implications.
“This will have to be sorted out by the German Parliament and we’ll see,” Juncker said at a press conference. “I’m not a member of the Bundestag to do that. I suppose they will do so.”
The Commission president even seemed to joke that the EU should have its own secret service to carry out espionage “because the agents are here. I don’t know if the German agents are here.”
Under the guise of a mission for “information on illegal exports,” BND helped the NSA spy on Germany’s fellow member states and institutions, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
In 2013 it was revealed that the NSA had been monitoring German e-mails and telephone records. German daily paper Bild reported Monday that Chancellor Angela Merkel was informed about the US spy operation in 2008 but took no action.
At a press conference Wednesday, Merkel’s office denied that her government had attempted to cover up the spying operation.
“I reject categorically the assertion that the government has not told the truth,” said the Chancellor’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert.
Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said the new spying allegations are a matter of “national competence” and not in the hands of the European Commission. EU officials, he said, would rely on investigations by the Belgian, French and German governments.
The Commission would not comment on its counter-espionage efforts or the safety of its intelligence.
“I can share with friends and potential enemies that we are on the ball,” Schinas said.
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