Wednesday

27th Mar 2019

Ashton hires Polish agent to beef up security

  • The EU Commission's Berlaymont building in Brussels: Ms Ashton currently works out of the commission headquarters, but the new EEAS building will need its own security shield (Photo: EUobserver)

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has hired a Polish secret service officer to be the main architect of internal security in the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The officer, whose name is being kept under wraps, was parachuted into Brussels from Warsaw to begin work on 1 June and is expected to stay in the EU capital until the end of the year.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

His job is to chair a new "working group" that will design security protocols for the diplomatic corps, concentrating on physical security of EEAS buildings in Brussels and communications systems with the EU's 136 foreign delegations.

The group, which meets once a week, also includes "15 or so" delegates from the commission, the EU Council, the Belgian EU presidency, France, the Netherlands and Sweden.

"They are mostly diplomats, but not all of them," a contact in the EU institutions said. "They come from those member states who are the most interested in security. In setting this up, you need expertise and experience."

The EEAS, which is expected to start work in October or November, will handle classified documents.

The Council and commission already have detailed security protocols, but they are not water-tight. EU diplomats are fond of telling the anecdote how a Russian diplomat was once escorted from a meeting of the Political and Security Committee in the Council after wandering in "by mistake."

The Ashton group chairmanship is a mini-coup for Warsaw.

Some Polish politicians, such as centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, have in the past complained that "new" member states are not playing an important enough role in the fledgling EEAS. But the Polish administration has kept quiet about its EEAS security role because it wants to be a "reliable partner" for its EU peers.

Post-Communist and post-Soviet EU countries see themselves as experts on security matters after their experience in the Cold War.

China and Russia are both security threats in Brussels. But the exposure this week of 11 alleged Russian spies in the US, and the earlier case of Herman Simm, an Estonian official who passed EU and Nato papers to Moscow, have highlighted Russia's post-Cold-War spy effort.

Former Estonian prime minister Mart Laar, who helped organise a clean-out of KGB elements in Estonia's security structures in his two periods in office in the 1990s, said the US arrests and the Simm case are wake-up calls for Europe.

"We must learn that this is a reality. This is what Russia is for," he told EUobserver in an interview.

"You don't need big [counter-intelligence] services. Effective services can be quite small. But they must be clean themselves," he added, on the potential value of experts from ex-Iron-Curtain countries.

EU on path towards whistleblower protection

EU lawmakers and member states have struck a political deal on the first-ever EU-wide directive on whistleblower protection - following years of big tax-evasion revelations and the laundering of dirty money in European banks.

Germany's CDU lukewarm on Macron's EU vision

Germany's anointed new leader has echoed France in calling for EU reform to combat populism - but with a stronger role for national governments and with little prospect of sharing German wealth.

Exclusive

Sefcovic campaign videos feature fellow commissioners

Maros Sefcovic, commission vice-president in charge of Energy Union, is running to be president of Slovakia. Now two of his fellow EU commissioners have endorsed him - raising questions about their independence.

EU college defends Saudi-style visits, attacks 'sloppy' media

College of Europe rector Jorg Monar says the surplus money made from setting up closed-door meetings between the Saudi government and EU officials, including MEPs, "would barely cover the replacement costs of a beamer in a College seminar room."

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us