VIENNA—Austria summoned the US ambassador on Monday to explain reports that Washington had bugged European offices and embassies amid a growing diplomatic row.
In a meeting with the ambassador, William Eacho, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger expressed Austria’s worries over the spiralling espionage scandal that has threatened to damage transatlantic ties and demanded a rapid clarification.
Eacho promised to transmit Vienna’s concerns to the “relevant authorities,” according to local news agency APA.
Earlier Monday, Spindelegger told the Oesterreich local daily that the accusations were “unacceptable.”
“We want an urgent explanation from the American side as to whether they are true and what espionage activities took place in Austria,” said the minister.
Over the weekend, German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) carried out covert surveillance on EU diplomatic missions.
Der Spiegel said its report was partly based on confidential documents it had been able to consult via fugitive US leaker Edward Snowden.
European sources said anger over the scandal was genuine and warned it could escalate into a “serious” political crisis, just as the EU and US are to begin tricky talks on a free trade deal, which would be the biggest ever negotiated.
In neighboring Germany, Europe’s political and economic heavyweight, a foreign ministry spokesman said the US ambassador had been “invited” to discuss the issue.
He stressed, however, that the envoy had not been “summoned”—a formal diplomatic move when tensions develop between governments.