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The IntCen… the place for exchanges… Top secret analyzes

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Behind glass somewhere in an EEAS building, a little more secure than this one, in Brussels (© NGV / B2)

(BRUXELLES2) Sharing intelligence, having a European CIA... good feelings and good ideas spread as quickly as powder after the attacks in Paris in European circles. And we often cite in this respect the IntCen (the former SitCen) which could be the embryo of this intelligence service. This service, little known to the general public, and even specialists in European issues, arouses all the fantasies: from a European-style secret service to a simple office for compiling press reviews? We hear everything and its opposite... What is it in reality? What is his role ? What is he doing ? some answers...

A shared analysis center and not an information exchange center

The name "Intelligence Center" may seem rather high-sounding. The reality is different. The IntCen has nothing to do with a European-style CIA: no investigative powers, no spinning or wiretapping, no agents in the field and no operational role. Its mission is more a mission of knowledge, of intelligence in the French sense of the word. In fact, it is more of a resource center, intended primarily for European leaders, which aims to analyze and synthesize information from Member States or open sources. " We are not the CIA. If someone wants to compare us, it would rather be with the INR, in charge of analysis, within the American State Department. We kinda do the same job explains one of its members whom B2 met.

A refocused ambition

In this respect, the IntCen is the successor to the SitCen (= situation center), originally placed with the Council of Ministers of the EU, with the aim of sharing intelligence analysis. But with an ambition refocused on analysis. The other functions — consular crisis management, monitoring, communications, etc. — have been transferred to other EEAS services. It thus went from a hundred people to around 60 people before rising to around 70 people (76 exactly today), including around forty analysts. These come largely from personnel seconded from the Member States. This makes it possible to have expertise at different levels. And also to master different languages. One of its members recently admitted to B2 that, all together, there are 50 languages ​​mastered and spoken within the IntCen. In addition to EU languages ​​and common languages ​​(Russian, Arabic, etc.), this involves rarer languages ​​such as Swahili, but very useful for understanding what is happening in Africa. It is a Finn, Ilka Salmi, who came from the Finnish security services, who runs it today; he replaced Britain's William Shapcott in 2010 (Read: Will a Finn take over the SitCen?).

Intelligence sharing depends on the willingness of member states

Its sources are largely based on open sources - the press, social networks, ... -, but also elements transmitted under the seal of "Top secret" by the various European services. With a limit. Intelligence is not shared well at European level. This is not new. A "Service" already has trouble sharing information, even at the national level... So at the European level! " But it's getting better “However, we explain internally. " We receive more and more contributions from Member States, who trust us ". This exchange of information - let's be clear - does not concern operational intelligence. This is not where the police exchange information on the various jihadist networks or transmit arrest warrants. There are other frameworks for this, usually bilateral or multilateral, more or less informal. It is more the analyzes of the various threats or risks that are exchanged. Analyzes are not redistributed as is. They serve as resources for European analysts as well as the press, twitter, facebook and other social networks. Valuable data...

First center of interest: Syria and Iraq + Ukraine

The first subject of interest concerns, at the moment, “what is happening in Syria and Iraq ” with in particular the threat of the organization of the Islamic state but also of the various groups present on the spot. " We also have concerns about Ukraine “Explains a European source to B2. " We seek to know what is the level of threat for the Member States, which groups are affiliated. On an incident (attack, etc.), we try to know the threat, to link it to other events, with the Syria Iraq trips. Our role, however, is not to investigate what happened at the scene of an attack as in Paris. in January 2015. But rather what it means, as consequences for other countries, for Europe ". The goal is not to have a global overview of all threats. " We do not look at all the crises in the world. Our strategic angle is if we see an issue that has an impact in Europe or on European citizens ».

Very useful "syntheses"

The IntCen thus prepares, in the first place, geographical or thematic summaries linked to the trips of the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, or to the subjects discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council or at the European Summit. His analyzes also irrigate the various European leaders, starting with Donald Tusk (European Council) and Gilles de Kerchove (anti-terrorist coordinator), but his analyzes can also land with Dimitris Avramopoulos (the European Commissioner for Home Affairs) Jean- Claude Juncker, as well as in the permanent representations of Member States. Documents of good quality according to several people consulted but who are mainly interested in the past or current situation. It also organizes various briefings on specific themes for European officials by IntCen agents or agents from the Member States' services.

A center that deserves to be strengthened

Even ifit remains at the strategic level and does not make direct recommendations on European policies (...) its production is really the first input necessary for our analysis notes a European diplomat. " It's the one stop shop for threat analysis remarks a Commission expert. And after the Paris attacks, it's " one of the actors who should do more and be more supported by the Member States. 

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

To go further: the complete file on the IntCen describing the history, role, workforce of the IntCen to be published in the edition Club et Quezako from B2

Also read on the blog:

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).