BERLIN (USA TODAY) -- Troubles are mounting in Europe for the Obama administration over allegations that the USA tapped phone conversations of leaders and citizens in Germany and France, and it may affect trade relations and longstanding cooperation on many matters.
European Union leaders meeting for a two-day summit in Brussels are agitating for action rather than just condemnation of the United States over news reports it tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and accessed phone records of 70 million French citizens.
"We can't simply return to business as usual," German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said.
France's President Francois Hollande is pressing for the spying issue to be put on the summit's agenda. French EU Commissioner Michel Barnier told the BBC on Thursday "enough is enough."
Barnier says confidence in the United States has been shaken and as commissioner for internal market and services he suggested Europe develop its own digital tools such as a "European data cloud" independent of American oversight.
The demands for action come as the U.S. ambassador to Germany was summoned to a meeting in Berlin on Thursday following allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency had tapped into Merkel's communications.
Ambassador John Emerson was asked to meet with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle after Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the chancellor had spoken Wednesday evening with Obama via telephone over the spying reports.
In France, ambassador Charles H. Rivkin was summoned to meet with French officials after the newspaper Le Monde reported that the NSA program to sweep up phone transactions (but not listen to the conversations) collected records of French citizens.
A German parliamentary committee that oversees the country's intelligence service held a meeting Thursday to discuss the matter. Its head, Thomas Oppermann, said he was informed that German magazine Der Spiegel had documents on the alleged spying on Merkel and that the claim was found to be "plausible."
Der Spiegel has published stories based on material from wanted NSA leaker Edward Snowden but did not reveal its sources for this latest story. Snowden has been granted safe haven for now in Moscow, which has refused to honor a request by the Obama administration to return him to the USA to face charges of espionage.
Arriving in Brussels on Thursday, Merkel said she told Obama in her phone call that "spying among friends cannot be." She said there needs to be trust among allies and partners and "such trust now has to be built anew."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said "the president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring, and will not monitor, the communications of the chancellor." He would not say if her phone was tapped in the past.
From a transatlantic free-trade agreement to cross-border data transfer, some in Europe say the NSA spying allegations threaten to create serious repercussions for the United States.
"There will be a more systematic effort on the EU's part to protect its communications - that's what the real damage is to the U.S.," said Charles King Mallory IV, former head of the Aspen Institute, a think tank, in Berlin.
"This scandal has sensitized numerous governments to the fact that their communications security was not tight enough, and that will be a net loss for the U.S."
He said the outfall could damage the cooperation the USA has enjoyed with European agencies in gaining intelligence on security threats.
Mallory said that while the allegations could do ongoing political damage to the Obama administration and its relationship with the EU, spying is a fact of modern life among allies.
"I'm somewhat surprised that people are surprised nations spy upon each other," he said. "This happens."
Germany has been one of Washington's closest allies in Europe. The USA was West Germany's protector during the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union that U.S. administrations had worked to accomplish for decades allowed for the reunification of West Germany with Communist-occupied East Germany. Germany is still home to thousands of U.S. troops.
Mallory said the German government had long been aware of U.S. attempts to access Merkel's communications, adding that a former chief of German intelligence told him about the spying a year and a half ago.
"We were discussing the NSA, and he said, 'I happen to know for a fact that they're capable of penetrating the communications of our chancellery,'" said Mallory. "So, I think there is a certain amount of political Kabuki that is going on."
Other analysts said the spying points to a U.S.-German relationship that, while close-knit on issues like security, is also marked by real and growing rivalry over trade.
"This is one of several aspects that tells me that we have a huge rivalry going on that's getting stronger," said Josef Braml of the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "I wouldn't even rule out industrial espionage - that's probably a bigger issue."
The reaction in Germany showed that data protection remains a politically potent issue. Just shy of a quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many still have vivid memories of the East German Stasi security forces, which regularly monitored the communications of both East and West German citizens.
"A greater affront by a friendly country is hardly conceivable," declared the center-leftSüddeutsche Zeitung in a front-page article.
Even the conservative daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that Obama and his administration "have diminished the trans-Atlantic relationship - even to a major degree."
The newspaper pointed out the United States had not perceived how much damage its intelligence agencies' activities in Europe had caused and are still causing.
"They are massively burdening the transatlantic relationship," it wrote. "The Americans shouldn't be surprised when calls become louder for example to suspend European-US free trade talks."
Contributing: Associated Press
Jesse Singal, Special for USA TODAY