By Jesse Singal, USA TODAY
BERLIN - European leaders meeting in Brussels said that the recent allegations over U.S. spying may threaten the global fight against terrorism, but security analysts questioned the likelihood of lasting damage being done to the U.S.-EU security relationship.
"A lack of trust could prejudice the necessary cooperation in the field of intelligence gathering," a statement Friday from Europe's heads of state said.
The statement was released as a conference on the European Union's economic and migration policy threatened to be overshadowed by the fallout from claims that U.S. intelligence had monitored the cell phone communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of other leaders.
On Thursday, Merkel said, "I've made it clear to the U.S. president that spying on friends is not acceptable."
However, despite the ongoing anger, most EU leaders at the summit said that good partnership trumped deep resentment over the snooping of U.S. security forces.
And Anand Menon, a security specialist at Chatham House, a London-based think tank, described various reports of potentially strained ties as "Political posturing, largely."
"I just don't think that when François Hollande or Angela Merkel talk to their security people, that they will be advising that they cut or decrease links with the United States," he said. "That just doesn't seem conceivable to me."
He said that the goals of Hollande, Merkel and other leaders trying to placate angry citizens without jeopardizing security cooperation will be "To try to do things at the head of state level that looks like something's being done, without doing very much at all. That's going to be the trick."
While the meeting of the European Council was supposed to focus on issues like innovation and competitiveness, most attention focused on the spy scandal, which originated in documents leaked to journalists by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The scandal also threatened to encroach on the summit's official business. The BBC reported that French President Francois Hollande, dealing with his own domestic fallout over allegations released earlier this week that U.S. intelligence collected millions of phone calls from French citizens, briefly met with Merkel at the summit to discuss the scandal, and that he pushed for the spying to be added to the conference's agenda.
France and Germany are hoping to hold talks with the U.S. to resolve the conflict by the end of the year.
"We will see to it that by the end of the year we come to a common understanding of the cooperation of the services of the United States and Germany, and France and the United States," Merkel said at a news conference. Hollande said that "what is at stake is preserving our relations with the United States," and insisted "trust has to be restored and reinforced."
Meanwhile, some German newspapers reported that the released documents point to the involvement of the U.S. embassy in Berlin. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the encrypted documents indicated that "the U.S. embassy in Berlin was the operational basis" of the spying.
If true, it could provide further evidence of a recent U.S. emphasis on using diplomatic staff for intelligence-gathering purposes. One cable from the 2010 Wikileaks document dump, for example, instructed State Department staffers to collect the phone numbers, email addresses and credit card accounts of foreign officials, among other information.