BERLIN - The German government said on Monday if media reports of large-scale U.S. spying on the European Union were confirmed, it would be unacceptable Cold War-style behavior between partners who require mutual trust.
"If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert. "We are no longer in the Cold War."
Germany wanted an EU-U.S. free trade deal which would foster economic growth and job creation, said Seibert. But he added: "Mutual trust is necessary in order to come to an agreement."
German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that the NSA had tapped communications at EU offices in Washington, Brussels and at the United Nations. According to the report, the NSA taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month, much more than any other European peer.
Meanwhile, the leader of Germany's opposition Greens suggested that Europe provide a safe haven for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the extent of U.S. surveillance programs.
Juergen Trittin, parliamentary leader and candidate for chancellor of the Greens, Germany's third biggest party, told German television it was an outrage that the 30-year-old leaker should be seeking asylum in "despotic" countries.
"Someone like that should be protected," he said. "He should get safe haven here in Europe because he has done us a service by revealing a massive attack on European citizens and companies. Germany, as part of Europe, could do that."
Trittin did not specify which "despots" he was referring to.
Snowden flew from the United States to Hong Kong and is now in an international airport in Russia seeking asylum in Ecuador - the country that has been sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy since last year.