Friday

15th Feb 2019

Fresh report into 2003 EU spy scandal points to Israel

  • The Council at work: the Justus Lipsius building is the venue for the EU's most sensitive internal debates, on, among other topics, foreign policy (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

Belgium's Standing Intelligence Agencies Review Committee has in a fresh report out on Tuesday (11 January) revealed details of a 2003 EU bugging scandal and named Israeli secret services as a potential culprit.

The report, completed in late 2010, is available on the committee's website in Flemish and French.

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

Committee member Peter de Smet on Tuesday told EUobserver the report says that two people suspected of planting listening devices in the EU member states' headquarters, the Justus Lipsius building, when it was constructed back in the mid-1990s had been trained by the Israeli telecommunications company Comverse, which has known links to the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

The report does not name any country other than Israel as the potential guilty party in its findings.

"There is no hard evidence [that the Mossad carried out the operation]," Mr De Smet explained. "But it was really state-of-the-art listening equipment that was placed back in 1993 or 1994 and there were not many countries that had the means at this time. It could be Israel, it could be Russia, it could be England or it could be the US - there you have really the four countries possible, but it will never blow up who did these things. It will remain a game inside the intelligence services."

In a point of caution for the European External Action Service, which is currently installing security facilities in its new headquarters, the Axa building on the Schuman roundabout in the EU quarter in Brussels, Mr De Smet added: "The main lesson of the report is that you should be careful when choosing your subcontractors."

"Also, if you have secrets - please join up all your efforts within your security services to tackle the problem in a multi-angle way."

The spy devices were first discovered by the Justus Lipsius' own technicians in February and March 2003 in parts of the building used by British, French, German and Spanish diplomats.

The EU's internal security branch - themselves former Belgian security officers - contacted the Belgian secret services to try to set up a sting on the spies involved. But the sting operation fell apart when the French daily, Le Figaro, published an article on the affair a few days later in a leak which Mr De Smet cautiously linked to one of the four target countries' own secret services.

"You can imagine that France, Germany, England, Spain, their services were probably also notified [of the sting]," he answered when asked how Le Figaro got the scoop.

The report paints the Belgian security apparatus and the then government of former prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, currently the leader of the Liberal group in the EU parliament, in a negative light.

It says that the officers involved in the failed sting should have immediately contacted Belgian counter-espionage experts; nobody was put in overall charge of the investigation which was carried out by seven separate Belgian security bureaux; documents asked for by investigators were delivered years later; and search warrants for private homes were issued six years after they were first requested. In the end, nobody was caught.

Mr De Smet added that a full sweep of the Justus Lipsius was carried out in 2003 following the discovery of the listening devices and that the report carries no suggestion that the Council of Ministers' headquarters suffered any similar security breaches in the 2003 to 2010 period.

"In a way it [the report] is an old cow," he said.

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us