French President Hollande and German Chancellor Merkel meet at the Elysee Palace, in Paris
© Pool New / Reuters
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) meet in President's office prior to a dinner at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, December 18, 2013. REUTERS/Yoan Valat/Pool
updated 2/15/2014 8:57:11 AM ET 2014-02-15T13:57:11

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she would talk to French President Francois Hollande about building up a European communication network to avoid emails and other data passing through the United States.

Merkel, speaking on Saturday ahead of a visit to France, has been pushing for greater data protection in Europe following reports last year about mass surveillance in Germany and elsewhere by the U.S. National Security Agency. Even Merkel's cell phone was reportedly monitored by American spies.

Merkel said in her weekly podcast she disapproved of companies like Google and Facebook basing their operations in countries with low safeguards on data protection while being active in countries like Germany with high data protection.

"We'll talk with France about how we can maintain a high level of data protection," Merkel said before her visit to Paris on Wednesday.

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

Government snooping is a particularly sensitive subject in Germany due to the heavy surveillance of citizens practiced in the Communist East Germany and under Hitler. The country was shocked by reports of NSA surveillance in Germany, based on information from 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 that other topics she plans to discuss at the Franco-German summit on Wednesday include closer cooperation on climate protection ahead of the 2015 climate conference in France and security policies, in particular in Africa.

(Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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