France’s Interior Minister on Thursday slammed the U.S. over allegations the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on European Union (EU) officials in a speech at a Fourth of July event hosted by the U.S. ambassador in Paris.
“In the name of our friendship, we owe each other honesty. We must say things clearly, directly, frankly,” said Minister Manuel Valls at the event, according to the Associated Press, asking the U.S. to explain the “espionage.”
Claims that the NSA tapped phone lines at EU offices in Washington, New York and Brussels have sparked outrage in Europe and led many leaders to demand an explanation from the U.S.
The Obama administration, though, has not confirmed those reports, but Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that intelligence gathering, even among allies, was “not unusual.”
Political parties on the continent are also using the issue to press leaders ahead of elections. Germany’s Green Party last week as well as the French Left Party called for NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who has admitted responsibility for disclosing the classified information, to be granted asylum in their countries.
Snowden is seeking to evade a U.S. extradition order and is currently believed to be in a Moscow airport. The former government contractor faces espionage charges in the U.S.
French President Francois Hollande has also pressed to delay the launch of long-awaited U.S.-EU trade talks next week in retaliation for the alleged spying. EU trade officials though have rejected those calls and say trade negotiations will begin as planned in Washington on Monday.
Reports on Thursday said the European Parliament in Strasbourg opened an investigation into the spy claims.