True to form, in the wake of the Paris massacre, the European Union decided it knows best and the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, called for the setting up of a European Intelligence Agency (EIA) as the means to combat terrorism. Some commentators even applauded this initiative. It’s all part of “ever closer union” was the joyous cry from dedicated Europhiles. Fortunately, however, a number of the larger EU members have rejected the idea immediately.
What Mr Avramopoulos didn’t realize is that the EU already has a body called the EU Intelligence and Situation Centre (INTCEN). He can be forgiven for this, since in the words of the actor Sir Michael Caine, “Not many people know that”. INTCEN has existed under different names since 1999, but has been criticized for “an alarming lack of operational transparency and democratic accountability”. That is probably par for the course in the EU!
INTCEN has a staff of 70 based within the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels. The EEAS has a budget of some €1bn and a total staff of 5000. The mission of INTCEN is to “provide intelligence analysis and situation awareness”. It does not have its own budget and it is not clear whether its work is of any use at all. Supposedly it produces occasional internal publications.
The EIA concept put forward by Mr. Avramopoulos fails on many grounds and would be a complete disaster. Not least, why would anyone wish to supercede or duplicate existing and working national intelligence agencies? These existing Intelligence Agencies may not be perfect, but they work in a very difficult and challenging environment of changing disparate threats and highly adaptive criminals and terrorists. Their records in combating these threats is of high order. The EU in contrast is a lumbering body that just loves to set up its own “branded” institutions, regardless of whether they stand a chance of working or being efficient and effective.
The UK is a member of a Group known as “Five Eyes”, which comprises intelligence sharing between the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. This Group is a highly respected and valuable resource to the UK, and one in which we play a very strong role as a partner through the excellence and expertise of our own MI5, MI6 and particularly GCHQ.
If we in the UK were to join an EIA, we would potentially cut ourselves off from a resource of great security benefit. There is no way that our present security partners would consider sharing sensitive information with a rag tag and bobtail group of 28 states. All of this is an example of ill-thought out EU “creep” towards “ever-closer union”, the misguided political mantra of the EU. It is also an example of another EU failing: the setting up of yet another body, when an existing one is not ideal for purpose and should first be considered for reform. Europol was set up to provide all the important exchange of information between police forces in the EU. Where does it stand in all of this? Deafening silence?
Given the existence of the EU’s Europol, set up to exchange and coordinate information related to crime and security, should we not start by setting up an independent review of how Europol is working and not working, in order to see how to optimize our information flows on threats by criminals and terrorists? We do not need yet more useless EU quangos!