Post terror attack within the European Union, opposition political leaders raise demands for more cooperation between intelligence and security establishments, some even going to an extent to call for establishing a dedicated intelligence agency. So, the question is, will establishing a dedicated European Intelligence agency solve the problems? If it does, how feasible is this option?
Intelligence cooperation amid terror attacks
In recent years, many member nations including France, Germany, Belgium and Britain have witnessed terror attacks. With every attack, the need to strengthen intelligence cooperation increases. Multiple intelligence and security establishments need to share vital time-sensitive information, particularly concerning known militants while initiating pre-emptive measures to apprehend perpetrators before the attack. In the light of the nexus between trans-national crime organizations and militant factions, intelligence and security institutions can only be able to successfully apprehend such perpetrators when intelligence sharing and inter-agency cooperation and coordination is timely and efficient.
To strengthen cooperation and coordination between intelligence and security establishments, establishing a dedicated European Intelligence Services is a viable option, according to the author. However, the domestic and external intelligence agencies explicitly operate under the direction of individual federal states. Hence, many laws such as protection of confidential informants could create hinderance during inter-agency cooperation.
Understanding legal and policy mechanisms
To begin with, scrapping cross-border restrictions were identified as the principal factor behind the encouragement of Transnational Organized Crime factions carrying out operations within the European Union. Since 9/11, political leaders continue to voice for an extensive inter-agency interaction at an inter-national level, to strengthen the fight against terrorism.
Interestingly, the necessary areas for regulation, such as the Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which states Area of Freedom, Security and Justice followed by the Title V of the Treaty on European Union which states General Provisions on the Union’s External Action and Specific Provisions on the Common Foreign and Security Policy does not highlight or mention explicitly intelligence cooperation or the need to strengthen it, diminishing the discussion on formulation of a European intelligence service. However, the Article 72 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union states that the Title V of the TFEU does not impact the roles and responsibilities carried out my member nations with respect to maintenance of law and order or national security. Also, the Article 73 of the TFEU further iterates that, member nations are free to cooperate and coordinate among themselves as they seem fit, but under necessary institutions within the domain of national security. Although, there are no explicit restrictions or binding which hinders member nations to cooperate and coordinate among themselves, there are no established guidelines which points towards a superlative European authority overseeing such initiatives.
Existing cooperation within EU
Under sheer political leadership and policy makers will and in accordance to the laws established by the EU, numerous inter-agency cooperation agreements have been ratified with few focussing on information exchange while others are informal in nature whose existence is largely due to bilateral or multilateral agreements. For information/intelligence exchange, EU relies on key agencies, principally The Office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and its subordinate agencies such as the European External Action Service, along with the Office of EU Counter-Terrorism, which extends its support to the Council of the European Union within the domain of counter-terrorism.
Additionally, there are three intelligence agencies currently active within the EU, the European Union Intelligence and Situation Centre, followed by the European Union Military Staff Intelligence Directorate and the European Union Satellite Centre. The European Union Satellite Centre, credited of being the biggest partial agency on intelligence within the EU, was established along the lines of EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Under the supervisory leadership of the EU External Action Service, the orders are received from the EU Intelligence and Situation Centre, member nations and EU Military Staff. It is a partner agency to member nations security establishments under the Common Security and Defence Policy and support other establishments such as the NATO or the UN.
The EU Intelligence and Situation Centre was established as an open source intelligence and analysis centre in accordance to the CSDP in 1999. Operating under the command structure of EU External Action Centre (EEAS), it deals with matters of internal security and counter-terrorism. The agency gathers data received from partnered inter-national domestic and external operating agencies within the EU. The agency, then, analyses politico-military centric data and corresponds it to the Office of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Union and other participating agencies under the Common Foreign and Security Policy. It also functions as a communication hub, disseminating critical data to EU political leadership, member nations, externally partnered countries, NATO among other international organizations. Although, often termed as EU EAS intelligence hub, it is not a dedicated intelligence service since it provides intelligence on a need basis, on request from member nations.
The EU Military Staff Intelligence Directorate is a dedicated military intelligence unit. The Military Staff and the European Union Military Committee receives real time military centric intel from a 40-manned office stationed in Brussels which assists them in formulating initiatives and key decisions for both civilian and military operations.
Policy makers must note that, the EU Military Staff Intelligence Directorate and Intelligence and Situation Centre operate under the umbrella of Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity since its establishment in 2007. In accordance to the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence as stated in the EU Global Strategy, the objective to formulate SIAC was to enhance cooperation and coordination within military/civilian intelligence agencies in an effort to strengthen member nations response to CSDP, while using Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity (SIAC) as a principal agency to relay strategic information, critical warnings and thorough analysis in response to critical scenarios.
Extensive cooperation among security/intelligence agencies within the EU
Policy makers must bring their attention to strengthen quasi-intelligence organizations such as the European Union Intelligence and Situation Centre and enrich their interaction with external and domestic agencies within and outside of the EU. Enhancing their operational areas will not only harness their worth but also the agency will be able to gain trust of member nations, motivating them to participate. Furthermore, the author advises policymakers and political leaders to formulate an Open Working Group whose task will to carefully study the organizational mechanisms of aforementioned agencies and formulate procedures and/or bring necessary changes to their structure or modus operandi in an effort to strengthen cooperation.
For effective and efficient cooperation, member nations and external partner countries must reinforce EU security and intelligence institutions with men and means. Relocating vital resources, finances and necessary technologies would strengthen necessary agencies within the EU, making them more effective and efficient.
From the recent rampant attacks within the EU, threats pose to international security have become more severe than ever. The ripple effects will affect all member nations of the EU in varying extent. The common European Security Policy must reach its implementation stage. Furthermore, the addition of inter-agency cooperation and coordination must be ratified as a clause with the CSDP.
Although, by establishing European Union Intelligence and Situation Centre and bringing it within the commands of EU EAS European Union has played a major role in assessing and analysing threats to domestic and external security. To a minimal extent, EU have adapted intelligence sharing mechanisms. However, niche, EU must maximise and harness the capacity of its agencies which would in turn benefit EU and its member nations.
Moreover, the intelligence exchange within the EU occurs as a prerogative to national security measures, they are optional at times and agency heads are under no such obligation. In an effort to share confidential information among partners, policy makers within the EU must formulate confidence building mechanism which will boost morale of small member nations which will encourage others. The current format followed by EU on intelligence exchange is of bilateral, trilateral and multilateral agreements, a tradition which policy makers must stop. In the light of non-traditional threats, a concrete yet dynamic intelligence exchange policy is need of the hour.