By William Jones, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The European Union (EU) and Brazil have agreed to lay an undersea communications cable across the Atlantic Ocean from Lisbon in Portugal to Fortaleza in Brazil in a step to bypass American telecommunications in the wake of the U.S. spying allegations on European and South American countries.
During the seventh Brazil European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff announced that the brand new US$185 million cable venture would ensure exchanges between Brazil and Europe through telephone and the internet would remain confidential in the future.
“We have to respect privacy, human rights and the sovereignty of nations. We don’t want businesses to be spied upon,” Rousseff told the committee gathered at the conference, in a reference to allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Brazil’s state-controlled Petrobras.
“The Internet is one of the best things man has ever invented. So we agreed for the need to guarantee the neutrality of the network, a democratic area where we can protect freedom of expression,” she added.
Both the EU and Brazil have been outspoken about the U.S.’ homeland security practices, brought to light by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. A diplomatic row followed revelations that the United States maintained a large-scale surveillance program that targeted the EU (European Union) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.
Brazil also publicly denounced the U.S.’ practices, which monitored the communications of President Rousseff, and led her to cancel her state visit to the United States last year.
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, was present at the conference in Belgium and spoke about progress made between the EU and Brazil on the South American free trade group Mercosur. “Some areas are more sensitive than others on the two sides, we should concentrate on the huge potential in this agreement,” Barroso said. Rousseff echoes the optimism. “Both sides are very much aware of the importance of this trade agreement,” she said.
The trade agreement has been making slow progress since talks began in 2000 but negotiations between the two regional blocs are due to accelerate this year with Mercosur member governments penning their proposals.
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