“Edward Snowden is someone who has done a great favour to humanity by publicising a number of evidences that there is a global spying system”.
On 15 September, French Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet said on the radio and television programme “Le Grand jury RTL Le Figaro LCI” that she welcomed the idea of granting asylum to Edward Snowden. A day later, the same opinion was expressed by French MEP Nathalie Loiseau from the “La République En Marche!” party.
The American whistle-blower had applied for asylum in France under President Hollande in 2013, but his request was rejected. Former Minister for EU Affairs Loiseau pointed out that Snowden’s request should be addressed by the refugee protection agency OFPRA, which she claims is “a completely independent agency”. Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe that the executive did not have its own say on such an important case.
On September 16, Snowden told France Inter that he was interested in asylum in France. Satisfying the request of someone considered to be a traitor in the US could be a unique opportunity for France to strengthen its role as an “equilibrium power” independent of the United States, as Emmanuel Macron put it. That would also be an example of how to act in line with the fundamental values of the French Republic, Loiseau told France Inter.
“I would be very happy if he were in Europe”, the politician said. “Not a single European country has granted Snowden asylum. This totally contradicts the principles we propagate”, she emphasised.
But what’s stopping France from giving Edward Snowden asylum? And what is the status of such whistle-blowers in France? Sputnik discussed this with Antoine Lefébure, a communications technology expert and author of the book “L'Affaire Snowden: comment les États-Unis espionnent le monde” (2014).
Sputnik: Edward Snowden mentioned that he “would very much like” to receive asylum in France. Nicole Belloubet was in favour of this, as was Nathalie Loiseau, who said that he had “done a great favour to humanity”.
Do you think that the government of Emmanuel Macron is ready to grant Edward Snowden asylum? Especially considering that in France, it is not officially the executive, but an autonomous institution who manages asylum applications.
Antoine Lefébure: It’s possible, but this is where the French government is confronted with a security question, which by the way, is much less acute in Russia. In France, there are problems with security. This was clearly demonstrated by the attacks on the “Charlie Hebdo” and the concert hall “Bataclan”. Can we say that Edward Snowden would be safe in France? I don’t think so. Here he would most likely be exposed to great danger.
Sputnik: Are we still in a situation where the French alliance with the United States prevails over the values defended by France?
Antoine Lefébure: This is not so much a choice, as France is still integrated both in NATO and in NSA activities, with the same software and devices. Once again, in France, the problem is mainly in security: many representatives of the [US] military industry would like to do away with him, not for revenge, but above all so that a corresponding precedent arises. He has done many things for which he has still not been punished, so he’s really in danger.
Sputnik: But why did he once again apply for asylum in France and inform the media about it?
Antoine Lefébure: Maybe he slightly overestimates both France’s independence and its security capacity. In the 1930s, many Jewish intellectuals fled Fascism and found asylum in the homeland of human rights. But a few years later they ended up in concentration camps. So it’s not the first time anyone overestimates France’s ability to protect asylum seekers.
Sputnik: And what can one say about the political will of the French government?
Antoine Lefébure: I think there are two camps. Some are a bit Atlanticist and see no point in harbouring a man considered to be a traitor by half of the US population. And the others regard him as a defender of liberties and believe that he should be accepted.
Sputnik: Would that not be a unique opportunity for France to establish itself as a leader of the liberal world and a balancing force between Russia and the United States?
Antoine Lefébure: Yes, for Macron, that would be a way to do something that would be positive in the eyes of the public. But he won’t dare take this step – at least that’s what I suspect.
Sputnik: Is the French government afraid that by welcoming Snowden or other whistle-blowers they will encourage such practices?
Antoine Lefébure: Yes, there is indeed a fear they would encourage other whistle-blowers and also annoy all those in the US government who consider Snowden a traitor. After all, France is one of the USA’s most important allies, especially in Africa.
Sputnik: What is the status of whistle-blowers in France? Are they better protected than in the US?
Antoine Lefébure: No, they are in a rather hostile environment, even more hostile than in the United States. In France, the protection of whistle-blowers stops where state security and files labelled “highly classified” begin. They are protected only when they issue alerts on industrial or technical issues and on the condition that this has nothing to do with military issues or espionage.
Sputnik: There is also a law that states that they must warn their superiors before publishing this or that information…
Antoine Lefébure: Exactly. And you can imagine how that actually works… The only purpose of this law is to make people believe that they are protected, without really protecting them.