Will spying row prompt EU to seek more autonomy? Doubtful
Published: Jun 01, 2021 07:58 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

About two weeks before US President Joe Biden's first visit to Europe since taking office, the US spy scandal on leaders of many European countries including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron has cast a shadow over the transatlantic relations. On Monday, Merkel and Macron said they expect the US and Danish governments to present explanations. "This is not acceptable among allies," Macron said, according to BBC.

However, observers generally believe that the two European leaders' statement may be much cry and little wool. Even netizens mocked the latest incident. A Chinese netizen said sarcastically on the Sina Weibo: "What's wrong with the US spying on European countries? It is just an inspection of daily work from higher-level authorities." Merkel and Macron's response is regarded more as a symbolic act due to domestic pressure. What kind of an explanation is the EU expecting? Will the related European countries turn their stance into action? This remains a question.

European countries' follow-up actions this time can be seen as a test of their strategic autonomy. In fact, European leaders are no strangers to Washington's surveillance and infringement on other countries' interests. In 2013, ex-contractor of the American National Security Agency Edward Snowden exposed the US' PRISM surveillance program, triggering strong dissatisfaction among European countries. However, such dissatisfaction did not lead to actual results.

But different from 2013, after four years of the Trump administration, many European countries have become increasingly distrustful of the US. Europe has also begun to promote its own strategic autonomy. If Europe still tries to play down the spy scandal this time, or even tries to privately communicate with the US to reach a face-saving conclusion, then the so-called strategic autonomy will only be empty talk and Europe will be in an embarrassing situation of being restrained by the US in all aspects.

After the Biden administration came into power, repairing the transatlantic partnership has turned out to be one of its diplomatic priorities. Before Biden's visit to Europe, it is an embarrassing test for Washington to make a response. "The hot potato has been passed to the US and Denmark. If Biden really wants to fix US-EU relations, he should respond positively instead of dodging it," Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The continuous exposure of surveillance scandals has allowed the international community to further see the US' true face. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Monday said that the US has become an "empire of hackers." There is no mutual respect and equality in the US alliance system. Some European countries cannot even guarantee their basic sovereignty. They have to endure Washington's surveillance, monitoring and infiltration. 

"If European countries are serious about their strategic autonomy, they should make use of this US spy scandal to promote it. In the future, European countries should not swallow the insult silently. If they are always subject to Washington on issues such as intelligence, then there will be no strategic autonomy at all," Cui said.

It is not easy to curb the destructive power of the US, but this is related to the interests and stability of all countries worldwide. European countries, as victims of Washington's spying, should demand a reasonable explanation from the US and Denmark. This will also be an important link for Europe to promote its own strategic autonomy, otherwise it will only go further away from the right path under the pressure of Washington.