A European CIA

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Own report) - With the cooperation of the German Foreign Intelligence Service, Brussels is proceeding with the creation of an intelligence service for the EU. The new body, which is to be integrated into the EU's External Affairs Services (EAS) by December 1, will be derived through the expansion of the EU's currently existing Joint Situation Centre (SitCen). The SitCen, which is outside of any parliamentary control, maintains a cell of intelligence services, including the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). It had been established with the objective of providing the EU independence from US intelligence services and a wider range of possible alternatives of action in relationship to Washington. Experts doubt that its current lack of operative competence will be sustained. Critics are already warning against a "European CIA".

Intelligence Service Cell

The Joint Situation Centre (SitCen), currently situated within the European Council in Brussels, is the nucleus of the intelligence service being established by the EU. This institution, with its current staff of 110, which the European Parliament has been vainly seeking to place under parliamentary control, supplies the European Council with important information relevant to foreign policy. The centerpiece of SitCen is a group of delegated intelligence agents, from twelve older and five more recent EU member states, including Germany. Until February 2011, a Frenchman will be heading this intelligence cell, where classified documents are already being exchanged with the individual national intelligence services. SitCen also has a section working round-the-clock evaluating publicly accessible information, not only ordinary news media but also imagery from commercial satellites.[1]

Comprehensive Sources

On December 1, the SitCen is scheduled to be incorporated into the European External Action Service (EAS). For the time being, Brussels is preoccupied with choosing SitCen's next director. Patrice Bergamini, of France, is the current provisional director. He will be competing against a German and an Austrian candidate. In addition, the SitCen is due to be significantly expanded. Also planned is the incorporation of the EU Commission's Crisis Room, charged with evaluating publicly accessible information material with elaborate technological means. The EU's so-called Watch Keeping Capability, comprised of police and military personnel from EU member countries, gathering information from all of the EU's police and military interventions, could also be included in the SitCen expansion.[2] Currently Brussels lists 14 "operations" on three continents. SitCen will also file the reports arriving in Brussels from the EU's future "embassies". And finally SitCen will have comprehensive access to spy satellite data from the individual European nations, including the German SAR Lupe, the French Helios satellites and the Italian system, Cosmo SkyMed.

EU Military Policy

The creation of an EU intelligence service has been in discussion since the early 1990s. At first it was politicians in Paris, who had been anxious to establish a common espionage apparatus. In the mid-90s the discussion also began in Germany. According to the unofficial periodical "Internationale Politik" in 1996, "in the course of the development of a security and defense policy, Europe will need a common intelligence service with capacities yet to be structured to ensure a higher efficiency."[3] This has become a necessity because of the "growing number of military operations" often carried out "in little known environments". The member states are not to give up their national intelligence services, but should combine forces in the appropriate way - also because of the growing complexity and expense of espionage technology.

In Competition with the USA

From the very beginning, competition with the USA has played a major role. As was observed by the journal, Internationale Politik, "access to an intelligence capacity (...) also determines the amount of influence in the international arena," which is why being hampered by dependency on US intelligence agencies must be broken to impose an EU foreign policy, independent of Washington's. The German government sought to calm protests from Washington with cheap avowals to transatlantic cooperation. It was "in this sense," according to Internationale Politik, that "during the December 1995 German-French consultations," Chancellor Helmut Kohl "accentuated that the German-French HELIOS-2 and HORUS surveillance satellites would also be beneficial for the USA."[4] At first, this avowal helped little. In 2001 protests from Washington forced Berlin to withdraw the candidacy of its top diplomat Christoph Heusgen, who was in line to become head of SitCen. The British William Shapcott, reputed to be complacent to US interests, was Heusgen's replacement.[5]

The Founding of SitCen

Shortly after its attack on Yugoslavia - at a meeting of the European Council in Cologne in June 1999 - the EU took its first step toward establishing its own intelligence service. Based, for example, on analyses of the WEU's Institut d'Études de Sécurité (with German participation) [6] the EU's head of foreign policy, Javier Solana, placed the Joint Situation Centre (SitCen), which, at that time, was situated at the WEU, under the auspices of the EU. In the context of the so-called war on terror, SitCen's insignificant activities were enhanced in 2002. Already at that time, the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) was involved in SitCen's work alongside the intelligence services of Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands and Sweden. SitCen, which has been gradually upgraded, has been a supplement to the long-existing informal cooperation between the European intelligence services. In addition, since February 1, 2005, it has been provided an "anti-terror unit," to handle "threats" within the EU, receiving information from European domestic intelligence services.[7]

Only the Logical Consequence

SitCen has restricted and, in the near future, will continue to restrict itself to gathering and evaluating already available information, having no operative elements for acquiring its own intelligence or for engaging in covert operations. SitCen is also being hampered by rivalry between national services, not willing to share their exclusive intelligence with partner services beyond the level of an informal exchange. In spite of this, experts are predicting that institutions operating within the EAS framework can quite readily acquire special competence. "In one or two years," explained the conservative European Parliamentarian, Elmar Brok (CDU-Germany), "the dependence on national information will be reduced."[8] Critics in the British organization "Open Europe" are already warning of a "European CIA". SitCen's foreseeable expansion to become a regular European intelligence service is only the logical consequence of the systematic German-European quest for powerful influence on a global scale, to be achieved through a combat ready foreign and military policy with reliance on espionage.

[1] Competition heating up for EU intelligence chief job; euobserver.com 14.09.2010
[2] EU diplomats to benefit from new intelligence hub; euobserver.com 22.02.2010
[3], [4] Klaus Becher: Ein Nachrichtendienst für Europa; Internationale Politik 1/1996
[5] Jelle van Buuren: Secret Truth. The EU Joint Situation Centre, Eurowatch 2009
[6] Institut d'Études de Sécurité: Towards a European Intelligence Policy, Paris 1998
[7] Jelle van Buuren: Secret Truth. The EU Joint Situation Centre, Eurowatch 2009
[8] Europäischer CIA; WirtschaftsWoche 20.09.2010