For starters, the EU’s intelligence system – and its future development – should not be bench-marked against a national intelligence system. The EU is a non-typical intelligence actor which has needs of its own and supports member states’ efforts in the security realm. In this it differs quite substantially from national intelligence systems. For example, the need for genuinely common analysis far outweighs the need for sharing highly sensitive information in the context of EU foreign policy. A common information basis allows for collective policymaking or, at least, increases the political price of resisting it.
The various arenas for European intelligence cooperation also encourage bilateral and ‘mini-lateral’ cooperation, something which should be seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Identifying partners and common interests, pursuing these interests in smaller groups and then reporting back to the multilateral forum has been a successful modus operandi in the field of counter terrorism. EU intelligence should not be deemed unsuccessful because it does not mirror or replicate a national system – and neither should it be reformed in that direction.
The EU also sits on untapped intelligence resources that could be developed rather easily. One example is the 140-odd EU delegations in third countries. These are primarily staffed by either trade and aid experts or generalists from the diplomatic corps; few have a background or competence in security analysis and, even where they do, the intelligence nodes of the EU have no straightforward way of tasking them. A clear mandate for IntCen to reach out directly to analysts within EU delegations would increase the flow of relevant information to the EU’s central intelligence system.
Moreover, the vast amounts of technical information that is already collected within the EU (by individual countries, as well as various institutions) through its net of ‘sense-making systems’ could be better processed and used. These streams of information can be turned into valuable intelligence to the benefit, for example, of crisis management and civil protection as long as proper oversight can be assured.
In general, the EU would do well to hone its non-traditional intelligence status and develop its open source capacity further.
ROBERT STEELE: Björn Fägersten has posted a truly brilliant piece on how regional intelligence organizations should not mirror national intelligence organizations. The last half of this memorandum should be read by every minister in Europe, perhaps complemented by a look at my new piece for the Nordics. It is so nice to see intelligent commentary in this domain.