Written by Hilary Barnes
Public opinion in France has never been enthusiastic about the opening of negotiations between the USA and Europe for a free trade agreement and the French government only agreed to the negotiations on the condition that the audio-visual industries were excluded from the talks.
This produced an enlivening exchange of insults between Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, who called the French attitude to globalization “reactionary” and several French ministers who were less than polite about Mr. Barroso.
Now the allegations relayed by Germany’s ‘Der Spiegel‘ and the UK’s ‘The Guardian‘ of spying by the US National Security Agency (NSA) on European Union institutions and European Embassies in Washington has given French politicians of the far-left and the far-right – united in the dislike of globalization – new ammunition against the trade talks.
They should be called off if the spying allegations are correct is the message from a leader of far-left opinion, Jean-Luc Melenchon, and the leader of the right-wing populist National Front, Marine LePen – both of whom were candidates in the 2012 Presidential election.
These two are also calling for France to give political asylum to Edward Snowden.
Mr. Melenchon declared in a television programme that,
“We should give asylum to Edward Snowden because he is a benefactor. It is owing to him that we know that we have been spied on. It is not normal to let him wander the planet when he is a defender of liberty.“
Ms. LePen agrees. She asked,
“….he’s told the world about the machinations of the United States and is now being pursued. If we can’t give asylum to Edward Snowden, exactly who should we give asylum too?“
She sees the episode in an even broader context.
“We must recover our autonomy in matters of defence. We cannot continue to be the poodles of the USA, spied on and led on a leash. It’s time for the Europeans to regain their liberty.“
She also added, with reference to local government and European Parliament elections in 2014, that –
“A grand patriotic battle is launched. The French must regain control of their own country, their destiny and their decisions.“
What the French themselves do in the way of electronic and cyber spying is something that not much appears to be known about, but the history of their intelligence services in general demonstrates that they have few scruples when pursuing French national interests.