By Fareed Zakaria
The revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency and its spying on foreign – even allied leaders – has been embarrassing for the Obama administration at a time when it hardly needs more bad news. Last week, European leaders reacted angrily to claims that the United States had been eavesdropping on calls, including listening in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
The revelations prompted Merkel to warn relations with the U.S. had been severely shaken. But is all this more than just an embarrassment? And should it raise alarms abroad and at home?
At first glance, this is a story that is less about ethics and more about power – the great power gap between the United States and other countries, even rich European ones. The most illuminating response to the revelations came from Bernard Kouchner, formerly the foreign minister of France. He said in a radio interview: "Let's be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else." Kouchner went on to add "we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous."
CNN speaks with Fareed about the controversy over National Security Agency spying activities in Europe – and what it means for ties between the U.S. and its European allies. This is an edited version of the transcript.
Intelligence chiefs were very unapologetic in their answers in the House committee hearings yesterday, defending the NSA spying programs. Is that enough to satisfy European allies?
Well, they've got two problems on their hands. The one is the European public. And the other is European leaders. So much of what they defended was the kind of metadata or using leads to follow up and figure out if there are terrorists. And that kind of thing, what you're doing is you're looking at patterns, you're seeing a bunch of phone calls from Saudi Arabia to Hamburg, Germany. Who are these people in Hamburg? Why are they being called?
I think people understand that the European public is very disquieted by the idea that they're being spied on by the American spy agency. That's one piece of it. The other piece, which they didn't defend, was the spying on Angela Merkel, the leader, the eavesdropping on phone conversations.
Now, that's always gone on to a certain extent. The key difference is, as the French foreign minister said, the Americans do it so much better than any of us that we're all somewhat jealous.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
As American, European, Russian, Chinese and Iranian negotiators jockey in Geneva over ending the West’s economic sanctions on Tehran in return for a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, European and U.S. publics are sending negotiators on both sides a clear message: they oppose Iran having nuclear armaments. They agree on the current imposition of economic sanctions. And they generally support the use of military force if sanctions fail. The Chinese and Russian publics, though, dissent.
At a time when people on both sides of the Atlantic have turned critical of the Afghan War and have recoiled from involvement in Syria’s civil war, there is relative cohesion on Iran in both Europe and the United States. Indeed, there are some signs such solidarity may be strengthening. Yet although Iranian negotiators in Geneva will find little daylight between the American and European publics that they can exploit, differences between transatlantic views and those held by the Chinese and Russian publics may yet prove critical in the talks.
By Stijn Hoorens, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Stijn Hoorens is associate director and head of the Brussels office of RAND Europe. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Prince George, the first child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, arrived last week, an event watched with king-sized anticipation across the globe. The royal birth comes at a time when fertility in Britain is increasing after decades of decline. Today, the U.K.’s total fertility rate, a proxy for the average number of children per women in a given year, is the third highest in Europe behind only France and Ireland. Is Britain on the cusp of a baby boom?
Fertility rates across Europe declined year-on-year between the post-war baby boom and the end of the 1990s. Europe’s total fertility rates dropped in most countries below the threshold needed to maintain a stable population, the so-called “replacement level” of 2.1 children per woman. But the dawn of the new century saw the declines cease and birth rates actually began to trend upwards in many countries, including the U.K.
And, while fertility rates in some European countries have resumed their downward trajectory in the last couple of years, Britain stands out as an exception, a place where a baby boom may well be taking shape.
By Anthony Dworkin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Anthony Dworkin is a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.
Relations between the United States and Europe hit a low point following revelations that Washington was spying on European Union buildings and harvesting foreign email messages.
Behind the scenes, though, it is not data protection and surveillance that produces the most complications for the transatlantic intelligence relationship, but rather America's use of armed drones to kill terrorist suspects away from the battlefield. Incidents such as the recent killing of at least 17 people in Pakistan are therefore only likely to heighten European unease.
In public, European governments have displayed a curiously passive approach to American drone strikes, even as their number has escalated under Barack Obama’s presidency. Many Europeans believe that the majority of these strikes are unlawful, but their governments have maintained an uneasy silence on the issue. This is partly because of the uncomfortable fact that information provided by European intelligence services may have been used to identify some targets. It is also because of a reluctance to accuse a close ally of having violated international law. And it is partly because European countries have not worked out exactly what they think about the use of drones and how far they agree within the European Union on the question. Now, however, Europe’s muted stance on drone strikes looks likely to change.
By Arvind Ganesan, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Arvind Ganesan is director of business and human rights at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are his own.
The National Security Agency surveillance scandal has been devastating to the U.S. government’s credibility as an advocate for Internet freedom. But the impact on U.S. technology companies and a fragile American economy may be even greater.
Every new revelation suggests far more surveillance than imagined and more involvement by telephone and Internet companies, with much still unknown. One of the most troubling aspects of this spying is that foreign nationals abroad have no privacy rights under U.S. law. Foreigners using the services of global companies are fair game. (There is also a certain irony to the revelations, considering that some European governments such as Germany and the Netherlands are strong U.S. allies on Internet freedom but may simultaneously be targets of U.S. surveillance online.)
A July 1 report by Der Spiegel on the NSA spying on European officials infuriated governments a week before negotiations started on a massive U.S.-European Union trade agreement that could be worth almost $272 billion for their economies and 2 million new jobs. Officials throughout Europe, most notably French President Francois Hollande, said that NSA spying threatens trade talks.
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
The Great Recession and the ensuing euro crisis have wreaked havoc with the European economy and now threaten to undermine the European Union itself. As Washington prepares to begin negotiations with Brussels on a U.S.-EU free trade agreement, America’s European partner has never been weaker. Europeans’ lack of faith in the European Project and the fissures that have emerged in European public opinion between the French and the Germans bode ill both for efforts to revive the European economy and for effective transatlantic cooperation in the near future.
Support for European economic integration – the idea that if nations lower their trade and investment barriers they will all be better off – is down over the last year in five of the eight European Union countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center in March 2013.
Fewer than a third of Europeans surveyed now think European economic integration has strengthened their economy. This includes just 11 percent of Greeks and Italians and only 22 percent of the French, the latter two citizens of founding members of the European Community. Since the fall of 2009, meanwhile, support for a more integrated European economy has dropped sharply: by 21 points in France, 20 points in Italy, and 16 points in Spain.
By Fareed Zakaria
Jonathan Laurence of Boston College, who's done extensive research of Muslim communities in Europe, found that before 1990 European countries were largely indifferent towards their Muslim populations - letting foreign embassies, like Saudi Arabia, set up the mosques and meeting centers for these groups. They realized that this produced a radicalized and unassimilated migrant community. So now, in recent years, governments at all levels are engaging with Muslim communities, taking steps to include Muslims in mainstream society but also trying to nurture a more modern, European version of Islam.
It's worth noting, Islamic terrorism has declined in Europe in recent years. The lesson from Europe appears to be: engage with Muslim communities. That's a conclusion U.S. law enforcement agencies would confirm. The better the relationship with local Muslim groups, the more likely those groups are to provide useful information about potential jihadis.
For more on this, read the Washington Post column
By Gareth Price, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Gareth Price is senior research fellow on the Asia Program at Chatham House. The views expressed are his own.
The EU’s announcement Monday that it is lifting sanctions against Myanmar, following their suspension last year, poses some important questions about the country’s future political and economic development – and the role of the international community.
Discussing the suspension of sanctions, which had been in place since 1990, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said last April that "great progress has been made” in Myanmar, but added that he was "very concerned about conflict and human rights abuses." These concerns justified suspending rather than lifting sanctions. A year on, it is unclear that those concerns have been eased.
In the intervening twelve months, what amounts to a pogrom has been launched against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. The Rohingya are Muslim, are denied citizenship and so are effectively stateless. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, more than 125,000 have been displaced.
By Matthew Rojansky, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Matthew A. Rojansky is deputy director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The views expressed are his own.
Europe’s too little, too late responses to the Eurozone crisis and the Arab awakening have amply demonstrated the difficulty of forging and enforcing a common position among 27 EU member states. Yet in at least one important area, Brussels has adopted a clear position supported by national governments: Ukraine, the largest country that is wholly within Europe yet outside the EU, should receive a path to closer EU integration – but only if it meets a set of key conditions intended to demonstrate its commitment to basic European values.
EU officials say that by November, they will be prepared to sign an Association Agreement with Ukraine, which promises liberalized market access for both sides plus visa-free travel for Ukrainians, if Kiev meets three requirements. First, Ukraine must advance its domestic reform agenda, bringing Ukrainian practices closer into line with European norms. Second, it must address the shortcomings of the recent parliamentary elections and guarantee free and fair elections in the future. Finally and most urgently, Ukraine must cease using the criminal justice system to target opposition politicians, a problem epitomized by the case of Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted of abuse of office in 2011, and is now serving a seven year prison term.
By Heather Gautney, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Heather Gautney is an assistant professor of sociology at Fordham University, and author of ‘Protest and Organization in the Alternative Globalization Era.’ The views expressed are her own.
The United States has become one of the most unequal countries in the world. Just 1 percent of Americans own about 40 percent of our wealth, gaining all of the nation’s income growth from 2009-2011. The income of the average middle class family is lower today, in real dollars, than it was 17 years ago. And 46 million people live in poverty, including about one in five children by some estimates.
CEO pay scales are both a symptom and cause of these terrible trends.
Defenders of high pay levels argue that corporate executives are our nation’s job creators. If only that were true. Despite a record-high Dow and soaring corporate profits, our workforce remains stymied around 8 percent unemployment, a gross underestimate if you include those actively looking for work. The truth is that employers are content with boosting productivity and racing workers to the bottom.
By Charles A. Kupchan, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Charles A. Kupchan is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University. He was director for European affairs at the National Security Council during the first Clinton administration. The views expressed are his own.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died Monday, altered the course of post-war Europe. As the leader of the Conservative Party, she liberalized the British economy, ultimately forcing Britain’s Labour Party to the political center and irreversibly remaking the country’s political landscape. Meanwhile, she consolidated in her own party a determined skepticism of European integration, setting the stage for the U.K.’s ongoing efforts to keep its distance from the European Union. Finally, she set a gold standard for Anglo-American relations, forging a close relationship with President Ronald Reagan. Teamwork between London and Washington helped guide the Cold War to a peaceful end.
The economic destruction wrought by World War II ensured the consolidation of a European left with socialist leanings – one strongly committed to the welfare state, labor unions, and economic policies aimed at taming the free market. Thatcher effectively pulled off an economic course correction that fundamentally altered British – and European – politics. By forcing through liberalizing reforms that ultimately produced an impressive economic expansion, she dealt a decisive blow to Britain’s traditional left. Privatizing industries, taking on trade unions, scaling back the welfare state – these and other policies aimed at economic modernization proved uniquely controversial, but also successful in producing results as well as strong electoral support. Thatcher, Britain’s only female prime minister, stayed in office from 1979 until 1990.
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
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Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
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