Germany, France eye new data network

Updated: 2014-02-17 02:50

(China Daily / Agencies)

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Moves aim at avoiding information passing through the United States

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she will talk to French President Francois Hollande about building up a European communication network to avoid e-mails and other data passing through the United States.

Merkel, who visits France on Wednesday, has been pushing for greater data protection in Europe following reports last year about mass surveillance in Germany and elsewhere by the US National Security Agency. Even Merkel's cellphone was reportedly monitored by US spies.

Merkel said in her weekly podcast that she disapproved of companies such as Google and Facebook basing their operations in countries with low levels of data protection while being active in countries such as Germany with high data protection.

"We'll talk with France about how we can maintain a high level of data protection," Merkel said.

"Above all, we'll talk about European providers that offer security for our citizens, so that one shouldn't have to send e-mails and other information across the Atlantic. Rather, one could build up a communication network inside Europe."

Hollande's office confirmed that the governments had been discussing the matter and said Paris agreed with Berlin's proposals.

"Now that the German government is formed, it is important that we take up the initiative together," an official said.

Government snooping is a particularly sensitive subject in Germany due to the heavy surveillance of citizens practiced in the then-East Germany and under Nazi rule, and there was widespread outrage at the revelations of NSA surveillance by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"We've got to do more for data protection in Europe, there's no doubt about it," Merkel said on Saturday.

Germany has been pushing, so far in vain, for a 'no-spy' agreement with Washington.

Merkel said she plans to discuss closer cooperation on climate protection with Hollande ahead of a global climate conference in France next year.

She also said that Germany wanted to bolster its military cooperation with France, particularly in war-torn areas of Africa, ahead of a joint Cabinet meeting next week.

"I agreed with French President Francois Hollande that we wanted to use the Franco-German meeting to discuss new projects, ... especially in the area of security and particularly in Africa," Merkel said in her podcast.

"More convergence is possible", notably in terms of working together in Mali or Central Africa, the chancellor added.