Edward Snowden: Will Europe Grant Him Asylum to Get Back at the U.S.?

Newly released secret documents leaked by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the intelligence agency has targeted the European Union with its spying activities, bugging EU embassies in Washington, D.C., eavesdropping on conversations held in the Justus Lipsius Building in Brussels, the location of the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council, and hacking into the EU representation’s computer network. These revelations have strained relations between the EU and the U.S. amid talks on an important trans-Atlantic trade agreement and Snowden’s current search for political asylum from the U.S., which has charged Snowden with espionage. Snowden has requested asylum from 11 European countries, including France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Though this tension will cause trouble during the trade agreement talks, EU countries are very unlikely to take the step of granting Snowden asylum.

The Europeans are angry and have publicly stated their discontent with the NSA and the Obama administration. French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira called the NSA operation as “an act of unqualified hostility” and President François Hollande warned that trade talks would be jeopardized unless the spying stopped. German Chancellor Angela Merkel states that “the monitoring of friends cannot be tolerated.” Some minority parties in these nations have even called for granting Snowden asylum. Yet even with all the public anger against U.S. spying operations, leaders in the EU have tempered their statements by reaffirming that cooperation with the U.S. is important.

As for Snowden, he is currently stuck in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport with no way to leave as the U.S. has revoked his passport. Russia has offered asylum to Snowden only under the condition he “stop his work aimed at harming [Russia’s] American partners.” Eleven out of 21 countries he applied to have said that they will deny his request, are not aware of one, or cannot consider it until he shows up at one of their embassies or on their borders.


Though the countries of Bolivia and Venezuela seem supportive, neither has offered asylum to Snowden. Poland is unlikely to grant asylum to Snowden due to being a close ally with the U.S. and such an action not “being in the important interest of the Republic of Poland”. Other EU nations will most likely follow suit for similar reasons.

Europeans are angry but not to the extent where they would affront the U.S. by harboring its most wanted international fugitive.

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Kyle Zhu

I am a student studying International Political Economy at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service. I love to play tennis, go chess, and have spent an abnormal amount of time playing Settlers of Catan sharpening my skills in cunning and urban planning.

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