EU Defense (Doctrine)Information

An intelligence service by 2020: a realistic utopia?

(BRUSSELS2) Viviane Reding has put an old idea back on the table: to make European intelligence services work better together. In an interview with a Greek newspaper Naftemporiki, published Monday, it thus advocates for a strengthening of cooperation between intelligence services in two stages: negotiating a cooperation agreement between member states, speaking with a common voice with the NSA and ultimately, creating a security service. European intelligence by 2020 (*).

(credit: European Commission)
(credit: European Commission)

Do a bad thing

A direct manner common among the Luxembourg commissioner which caused some embarrassment today in the service of the Commission spokesperson, who was very difficult to comment on this proposal. “ It is a political position, an idea that the vice-president has put on the table, which would need to be clarified” explained the chief spokeswoman of the European Commission. " A treaty change (*) would be essential added the commissioner's spokesperson. Besides that this position is debatable, Viviane's position has the merit of setting foot in the dish.

A hill where we share little

Some may consider his point of view to be unrealistic or idealistic. Because intelligence sharing is not common in this world. As a manager of a Western service recently confided, “ The world of intelligence is a world where little is shared. And if we share, we share together. But he also acknowledged that: “ The technical evolution has meant that we share more with more partners ». The question of creating a common European intelligence service which would not replace the national services but would complement them can therefore legitimately arise at a time when the NSA is active.

A loss of value

Some may say, this already exists in part. It's true. In 2002 the situation center (SitCen) was created and a “terrorism” dimension was reinforced after the attacks in London and Madrid in 2004. But with the establishment of the Lisbon Treaty, and the transfer to the European Diplomatic Service , the SitCen which became IntCen saw its ambition and its resources lowered. It now only includes two units: Analysis and General and external relations. And the number of people assigned to it has decreased. The height of absurdity, the coordinator of the fight against terrorism remained on the other side of the street, within the walls of the Council of the European Union, which represents the member states. Suffice it to say that the joint analysis dimension of intelligence has significantly lost its value.

A welcome kick in the anthill

This kick in the anthill is therefore welcome. By (re)posing the question of the creation of a European intelligence service, V. Reding requires reflection, at the same time as warning. Have we, as Europeans, done all the necessary prevention work in the face of a possible terrorist act? Is there not today a way and a way to work more together? On what levels and how to do it? Are the current structures adapted or would they be adapted in the event of a new tragedy such as the 2004 attacks? All these questions deserve to be put on the table and asked, at the same time as the question of the protection of citizens' data.

(Maj) This intervention arouses some skepticism in the ranks of specialists. As someone “close to the file” told me, “ it won't work. Such a system has already existed in NATO for a long time and several requests from national representatives to relaunch this dynamic have been made. Without success. Intelligence is not shared except between two “friends” and through an exchange of different information of equal value. »

(*) “What we need is to strengthen Europe in this field, so we can level the playing field with our US partners. I would therefore wish to use this opportunity to negotiate an agreement on stronger secret service cooperation among the EU Member States – so that we can speak with a strong common voice to the US. The NSA needs a counterweight. My long-term proposal would therefore be to set up a European Intelligence Service by 2020”

(**) Treaty change does not really seem essential. Because a certain number of actions can already be undertaken under various provisions of the Treaty. Furthermore, it explicitly provides among the tasks of police cooperation and that of Europol the collection and analysis of information (art. 87 and 88 Treaty)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “An intelligence service by 2020: a realistic utopia?"

  • There are already very specific provisions in the Lisbon Treaty on cooperation between the services of national administrations involved in the field of national security! It is a matter of implementing them through appropriate operational provisions after having harmonized at Union level what is covered by the notion/function of national security! What should have been done a long time ago with regard to the responsibilities of the European Commission in international investment agreements (cf. http://www.regards-citoyens.com/article-la-protection-de-la-securite-nationale-dans-les-accords-internationaux-d-investissement-aii-110909452.html)

    See about the national security provisions enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, in particular, the articles published on the blog http://www.regards-citoyens.com (articles also published in 2009 in a special issue of the Bulletin Quotidien Europe): http://www.regards-citoyens.com/article-32884183.html and next!

    Furthermore, it should be noted that certain fundamental laws and/or national constitutions 'omitting' to specify the distribution of the institutional competences specific to each State on the register of national security, limiting themselves to national defense alone, inclusion in the Lisbon Treaty of provisions relating to national security raises some questions of a constitutional nature which do not even seem to have challenged our brilliant jurists and constitutionalists sleeping on their laurels!

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