EU 'needs an intelligence agency' to stop spying among own ranks

Concerns raised by Denmark's alleged co-operation with US to spy on European leaders

(FILES) This file photo taken on June 4, 2014 shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel holding her mobile phone during a session of the Bundestag Lower House of parliament in Berlin. The US spied on top politicians in Europe, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from 2012 to 2014 with the help of Danish intelligence, Danish and European media reported on May 30, 2021. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL

The EU should have its own intelligence agency so that countries are not tempted by secretive deals with the US, members of the European Parliament were told.

The call comes after allegations that Denmark helped the US to spy on European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A committee of MEPs heard that improving Europe’s own intelligence gathering would reduce the appeal of tie-ups with Washington.

The EU has an intelligence centre called Intcen, but it relies on information collected by member states rather than gathering its own.

The call for a fully-fledged intelligence service echoes demands for the EU to boost its military might, after the fall of Kabul exposed its reliance on the US.

Robert Dover, an intelligence expert from the University of Hull who appeared before the committee, said the EU should seek to make it improbable that members would ever consider spying on each other.

Quote
Our intelligence agencies need to give information to the entire Union
Nacho Sanchez Amor, Spanish MEP

“It’s important to understand that the adversary is not only a classic adversary – Russia, China for example – it’s also competitive friends,” he said.

“It has relied on EU members cheating on each other – taking the short-term payoff of the benefit of the information and sort of hedging away from the long-term damage.

“There’s a way to disincentivise that cheating through the creation of one alternative hegemon, so that the reliance upon the US or the attraction of US capabilities is dimmed.”

Nacho Sanchez Amor, a Spanish committee member, said the EU could not consider itself a global power without its own intelligence service.

Spies in Denmark should not regard Germany as a foreign country in the way they would treat a non-EU member, he said.

“We need to understand that our intelligence agencies need to give information to the entire union,” he said.

“I’m going to insist on the creation of our own intelligence system that cannot allow for Danish intelligence to spy on Germany.”

Denmark did not confirm or deny the alleged spying from 2012 to 2014. A previous government was in power at the time.

The committee also discussed threats from abroad. Russia was accused this week of organising cyber attacks against German politicians weeks before an election.

Margarita Robles Carrillo, an international relations expert, said the EU should consider treating foreign interference as equivalent to a terrorist attack.

A “solidarity clause” in EU treaties says members should mount a joint response in the event of terrorism.

Updated: September 9th 2021, 12:37 PM
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