Monday, February24th2014 – 22:28 UTC

Brazil and the European Union agreed on Monday to lay an undersea communications cable from Lisbon to Fortaleza to reduce Brazil’s reliance on the United States after Washington spied on Brasilia.

At the summit in Brussels, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said the 185 million dollars cable project was central to “guarantee the neutrality” of the Internet, signaling her desire to shield Brazil’s Internet traffic from U.S. surveillance.

“We have to respect privacy, human rights and the sovereignty of nations. We don’t want businesses to be spied upon,” Rousseff told a joint news conference with the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

“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,” Rousseff said.

Rousseff postponed a state visit to Washington last year in protest at the US National Security Agency spying on her email and phone and is now seeking alternative routes to US cables.

Brazil relies on US undersea cables to carry almost all of its communications to Europe. The existing cable between Europe and Brazil is outdated and only used for voice transmission.

EU leaders are sympathetic to Brazil’s call following the revelations of fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that showed the agency also eavesdropped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone and some EU institutions.

But Rousseff clearly took heart from Merkel’s calls this month for a European Internet that is protected from U.S. surveillance, even if there are questions about the practicalities of setting up alternative networks in Europe.

Rousseff said Brazil and the European Union have “similar concerns” about US dominance of fiber-optic cables and hoped to have a cable running from the Portuguese capital Lisbon to the northeastern Brazilian of Fortaleza from next year.