Will Snowden Leaks Slow U.S. Trade Talks with Europe?

European Parliament Building

The United States has gotten itself into a fair bit of trouble after National Security Administration leaker Eric Snowden revealed the U.S. targeted European institutions and citizens using the PRISM program.

The program began under the George W. Bush administration and was continued by President Barack Obama; it involved major U.S. corporations turning over information to the government for national security uses. European allies of the U.S. have been taken aback, with most wanting answers.

The news comes on the eve of major free-trade talks to negotiate the prospect of a wider, more liberal trade pact capable of creating substantial investment and growth in both economies.

France, whose economy is still in recession, has called for a delay in the talks, pointing to a lack of trust as a key reason for the request.

In addition to the PRISM revelations, Snowden’s leaked information says the U.S. placed listening devices in European Union offices in Washington and infiltrated computers there, while also electronically spying on other EU bodies.

Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania, the country that currently holds the rotating EU presidency, seemed to feel the weight of the economic imperatives surrounding the talks.

“We don’t want to jeopardize the very important question of free-trade talks between the European Union and the United States,” she said Thursday in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. ”We very much hope…to separate these two questions.”

France is not alone in distrusting the U.S.: European Parliament President Martin Schulz demonstrated substantial anger after German newspaper Der Spiegel reported findings of the electronic surveillance.

“With this affair or not, the United States of America and Europeans remains to be strategic allies,” he said. “Therefore it is shocking that the United States take measures against their most important and nearest allies, comparable to measures taken in the past by the KGB, by the secret service of the Soviet Union.”

Despite the ramifications for EU and U.S. relations, the need for further trade remains real, as unemployment for Europe recently hit an all-time high of 12.1 percent. European leaders met in Berlin earlier this week to discuss the bloc’s rampant youth unemployment problem.

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