"Trust needs to be rebuilt."
That's what German Chancellor Angela Merkel firmly asserted early Friday -- as she had the previous day -- in the wake of reports the U.S. National Security Agency had eavesdropped on her cell phone.
This claim and others that she and other world leaders have been spied on had "severely shaken" relationships between Europe and the United States, the German leader said.
"Obviously, words will not be sufficient," Merkel said in the wee hours Friday at a summit of European Union leaders. "True change is necessary."
Talk of the NSA's reported spying on Germany and other allies dominated Merkel's news conference in Brussels, Belgium. It illustrated the anger over this story in Europe and the challenges facing Washington because of it.
The Chancellor insisted she isn't the only one concerned; other European leaders, she said, voiced similar sentiments during the first day of the summit Thursday.
Her comments echoed some she'd made upon arriving Thursday in Belgium, when she said that discussions of "what sort of data protection do we need and what transparency is there" should now be on European leaders' agenda.
"We need trust,..." she said. "Spying among friends is never acceptable."
U.S. President Barack Obama understands it's a "necessity" for change from his nation's perspective, according to Merkel, who spoke with the American leader on Wednesday after Germany's government said it had information the United States might have monitored her phone.
She told Obama that eavesdropping among friends is "never acceptable, no matter in what situation," she said.
On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney repeated what he said Wednesday -- that Obama assured Merkel that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor her communications.
And in a USA Today op-ed published online Thursday night, Obama's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco conceded that recent "disclosures have created significant challenges in our relationships." To address them, the President has ordered a "review (of) our surveillance capabilities, including with our foreign partners," she wrote.
"We want to ensure we are collecting information because we need it and not because we can," said Monaco.
The German allegation comes in the same week that French daily newspaper Le Monde reported claims the NSA intercepted more than 70 million phone calls in France over 30 days.
And The Guardian newspaper -- citing a document obtained from U.S. government contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden -- reported Thursday that the NSA monitored phone conversations of 35 world leaders. The confidential memo is from 2006, which is before Obama became president. None of the monitored world leaders is identified.
The phone numbers were among 200 handed over to the NSA by a U.S. official, the memo states. Others were encouraged to share their "rolodexes" with the agency, according to the document, even though tracking until then had yielded "little reportable intelligence."
Like Carney, NSA spokeswoman Caitlin Haden refused "to comment publicly on every specific intelligence activity."
"As we have made clear," she added, "... the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."
European leaders push for data protection
It's not clear how well such explanations will be received by Washington's allies in Europe elsewhere, or how significantly it has and will continue to affect the European Council meeting.
The two-day summit was supposed to focus on the digital economy and economic and social policy issues, as well as concerns about EU migration after a recent shipwreck off an Italian island in which hundreds of migrants from Africa died.
But French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told the French National Assembly on Tuesday that France would ask for the question of electronic surveillance to be added to the agenda.
The EU leaders were expected to discuss data protection issues as part of their debate on the digital economy.
Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission, called for EU nations to commit to adopting a data protection law in light of the recent spying scandals.
"Data protection must apply to everyone -- whether we are talking about citizens' e-mails or Angela Merkel's mobile phone," she said. "We now need big European rules to counter big fears of surveillance.