A European CIA (II)

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Own report) - A German intelligence officer has assumed the management of the EU's IntCen espionage agency and has the responsibility of enhancing its effectiveness. Last week, the BND's Gerhard Conrad was appointed the new director of the Intelligence Analysis Center (IntCent), which is under the authority of the European External Action Service and lays the groundwork for an intelligence agency in the service of the EU's foreign and military policy. The core of the agency has existed since 1999, with the objective of reducing the EU's dependence on US intelligence services, to become militarily autonomous - even, if necessary, without the USA. Because of rivalry between the national intelligence agencies, particularly those of the larger EU countries, IntCen's development had not progressed as rapidly as was hoped. As its new director, Conrad is expected to correct the situation. However, the German government continues to reject the substitution of its national intelligence services by an EU agency, because Berlin would have to give up its special advantages, for example, through the BND's cooperation with the US agencies, and give up its methods that are incompatible with the interests of other EU member countries.

An Intelligence Service for EU Military Missions

The idea behind the creation of an EU intelligence service goes back to the 1990s. It has developed alongside a nascent European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), which, in turn, was conceived in the wake of Yugoslavia's wars of disintegration, to facilitate military interventions independently of NATO. "In the course of the development of a security and defense policy, Europe needs a joint intelligence service," according to an article published in 1996, in the specialized periodical, "Internationale Politik." Should the EU seek to intervene, it must be "sure it can provide Europe's political and military leadership with reliable, comprehensive analyses." It goes without saying that "the relationship to the United States" is a "basic theme of every discussion of Europe's future intelligence service structures," the journal explains further, in reference to the great significance of the US services and their espionage. From their experience during the Bosnian Civil War, some nations, for example Great Britain, with particularly close relations with Washington, had "begun to reconsider their current dependence" on the USA. London and other capitals, "felt the US left them in the dark, at times."[1] The earliest efforts at creating an EU intelligence service, had been inspired by the need to become operational independently of - or even, if necessary, contrary to - US interests.

Transatlantic Rivalries

Transatlantic rivalries, therefore, weighed heavily on the first years of work on the EU intelligence service. The new High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana initiated the work in late 1999. Solana had come directly to the EU from his post as NATO's Secretary General. The first intelligence service unit, the Joint Situation Center (SitCen), was incorporated under the authority of the EU Military Staff (EUMS), to then be transformed into an independent institution within Solana's administration in 2002. Even though the responsibility for SitCen should have gone to the German diplomat Christoph Heusgen, who headed Solana's political staff, the British diplomat William Shapcott was appointed SitCen's director. This was seen in German media as a clever maneuver by the United States. The USA sought to "insure that it maintains control and influence, by way of its British partner."[2] On the other hand, SitCen soon began to make significant progress. At the time, when, in early 2003, the EU was preparing to take over the NATO-led "Allied Harmony" military operation in Macedonia - which was continued by the EU's "EUFOR Concordia," mission, initiated March 31, 2003 - Solana was quoted saying "by now, we will accomplish the first military mission ... also without NATO."[3]

Informers Trained in Intelligence Gathering

Since January 1, 2011, SitCen has officially been incorporated into the newly formed European External Action Service (EEAS) and renamed, in March 2012, the "Intelligence Analysis Center (IntCen)." Today, this agency has around 70 employees. EU member nations' national intelligence services - including Germany's BND - have their own representatives. IntCen works together with other EU agencies, particularly with the intelligence service structure incorporated under the authority of the EU Military Staff (EUMS) the Intelligence Division (IntDiv). Officially, IntCen is not allowed to carry out espionage operations, therefore, it must be satisfied with reliance on reports national intelligence services are willing to provide, alongside public source material for its analyses. However, in early 2003 it was reported that IntCen can have access to "information, ranging from confidential to secret, furnished by the 130 active EU foreign representations of the member states." This is supplemented with information from an informal sort of "sourcing agency." According to news reports, for this sourcing agency, the EU employed "a network of a hundred observers, so-called monitors, in the Balkans" - its most important focus at the time - who have been "trained in intelligence gathering," compiling information from their "local above-board as well as clandestine informers," and "transmitting daily encoded reports to Brussels."[4] "This information is often better and more detailed than the material from national services," one of the employees of EU's main foreign policy maker Solana was quoted saying. "We have our own eyes and ears throughout the world."

A Step Forward

It has been repeatedly demanded that IntCen be developed into a full-fledged EU intelligence service with operative espionage. This demand has become even more urgent this year. "We need ... a common intelligence service," Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is quoted to have said in the aftermath of the Paris attacks in January.[5] Following the attacks in November, Belgium's Prime Minister, Charles Michel also raised the demand: "We must quickly create a European intelligence service, a European CIA."[6] The EU's Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, also declared, "I believe it is high time to take another step forward and lay the foundation for a European intelligence service agency."[7]

German Special Advantages

Objections are, however, being raised by the largest EU nations with the strongest intelligence services, particularly Germany. "We should not concentrate our efforts now on establishing a new European intelligence service," declared Germany's Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière: "I cannot imagine us being ready to give up our national sovereignty."[8] In fact, BND methods, such as, for example, spying on the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[9]) would no longer be feasible in a joint EU intelligence service. Other special advantages of the BND derived, for example, from its cooperation with the NSA [10] would also be lost. Therefore, "we should be concentrating on enhancing information exchange between the existing institutions," recommended de Maizière.[11] This refers to cooperation within EU institutions, such as IntCen.

German Spymaster

Last Wednesday, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, appointed the BND's Gerhard Conrad to the post of director of IntCen. Conrad is considered to not only be an Arab World expert - he was stationed at the German embassy in Beirut and Damascus for years and made a name for himself as the mediator between Israel on the one hand, and Hamas and Hezbollah, on the other. His expertise is particularly appreciated in the current war against the "Islamic State" (IS, Daesh). He has also been confided the job of organizing a more comprehensive cooperation with the intelligence services of the other EU countries within the framework of IntCen. The "close and reliable cooperation of the intelligence services" plays "an important role," warns BND President Gerhard Schindler.[12] Conrad's appointment is "a clear signal the EU is looking to strengthen IntCen’s role" observes the British press.[13] The elaboration of IntCen into an EU intelligence service - while, maintaining, parallel, the national intelligence services is nothing unusual for Germany. Alongside its national domestic intelligence service - the "Defense of the Constitution" - Germany has always maintained a total of 16 domestic intelligence services at the state level - the "State Offices of the Defense of the Constitution."

[1] Klaus Becher: Ein Nachrichtendienst für Europa. In: Internationale Politik 1/1996. See A European CIA.
[2], [3], [4] Dirk Koch: Augen und Ohren. Der Spiegel 8/2003.
[5] Italiens Premier Renzi fordert EU-Geheimdienst. www.nachrichten.at 10.01.2015.
[6] Belgien will einen EU-Geheimdienst. www.n-tv.de 30.11.2015.
[7], [8] De Maizière lehnt Schaffung von eigenem EU-Geheimdienst ab. www.finanzen.net 20.11.2015.
[9] See Ausspähen unter Freunden.
[10] See Beredtes Schweigen, Die neue deutsche Arroganz and The New German Arrogance (II).
[11] De Maizière lehnt Schaffung von eigenem EU-Geheimdienst ab. www.finanzen.net 20.11.2015.
[12] Matthias Gebauer: Deutscher Top-Spion koordiniert EU-Geheimdienste: Mr. Hisbollah in neuer Mission. www.spiegel.de 11.12.2015.
[13] Justin Huggler: Germany's 'Mr Hizbollah' to head up EU's joint intelligence operation. www.telegraph.co.uk 11.12.2015.