Sunday

21st Oct 2018

EU defends intelligence agencies in wake of attacks

  • The EU's counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove said the EU's police agency, Europol, needs to receive more intelligence from national authorities (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The EU’s counter-terrorism chief spoke out in defence of European intelligence agencies amid criticism that French and Belgian authorities failed to apprehend some of the attackers in the lead up the Paris shootings despite warnings.

Gilles de Kerchove, speaking to journalists in Brussels following the publication of a report on foreign fighters by the Strasbourg-based watchdog the Council of Europe, rejected notions member state security services are not working together to crack down on potential terrorists.

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

“It would be inaccurate to suggest the security services are not working intensively together among themselves”, he said on Monday (7 December).

Turkey had warned France twice about Ismael Omar Mostefai, the 29-year old French national who opened fire on concert-goers at the Bataclan on 13 November in Paris.

And French law-enforcement authorities only learned Hasna Ait Boulahcen was the cousin of the so-called ring-leader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, days after the Paris attacks despite having bugged her phone on a separate drug related investigation.

Last week, the EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said member states need to start sharing intelligence after interior ministers backed a plan to collect personal data of commercial airline passengers.

"To keep secrets today is a very naive approach. It is better to exchange information in order to better protect our citizen's saftey", he said.

But Kerchove, who earlier this year told MEPs in the civil liberties committee to “never let a serious crisis go to waste”, said intelligence agencies simply cannot always reveal their methods or their information.

“You don’t want people to know that you have a source or that you have Big Brother interception by satellite or that you have people infiltrating computers”, he said.

He noted a so-called counter-terrorism group (CTG) had been set up in the wake of the September 11 2001 attacks in New York.

"I meet them every six months, the 28 heads of service plus Norway and Switzerland, and to say the least, they work day and night. It is not true that they do not exchange information or that they retain data", he said.

He also said that intelligence agencies have to use a 'third party rule' to avoid overlap. If France shares intelligence with Belgium, then Belgium has to ask permission to share with another country like the Netherlands. The system is an additional constraint that needs to be streamlined, he said.

"We are trying to design a mechanism, a common platform, so that we can have as much information as possible."

But such moves may not alleviate international concerns over Belgium's understaffed security services and broader issues on the inherent complexities of how Brussels is governed and policed.

Belgium is now setting aside an additional €400 million to ramp up an intelligence agency, with prime minister Charles Michel making calls for an European intelligence agency or a structure similar to the CIA.

“A European CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), these are my words. It is a necessity, I believe", said the Belgian PM.

Kerchove says an EU CIA is not possible under current EU treaty rules but noted that nothing impedes Belgium from taking the initiative to set up a mini version with a handful of other member states.

According to the Council of Europe report, drafted by Belgian socialist deputy Dirk van der Maelen, Belgium, along with Denmark and Sweden, has the highest concentration of nationals who leave to go fight alongside jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

Van der Maelen said, citing French intelligence, that young women now make up to around 40 percent of those leaving to join the Islamic State.

"These women are younger than the young men who are leaving", he said.

The European commission, for its part, proposed a directive on terrorism earlier this month.

The new directive makes it a crime to train or travel abroad for terrorist purposes as well as aiding or abetting, inciting and attempting terrorist acts.

EU states could lose US visa waivers

US lawmakers preparing to vote on bill that could see select EU states lose visa waiver perks if they don’t comply with stricter security measures.

Interview

Former spy chiefs call for EU-US intelligence hub

Europe and the US need an "intelligence hub” to fight terrorism, with grand ideas on EU military integration unlikely to bear fruit, Germany’s former spy chief has said.

Russian activist warns on 'fake news' as EU backs action

In 2015, internet activist Lyudmila Savchuk went under cover to expose a troll factory in St Petersburg. As the EU summit endorses anti-disinformation action, she told EUobserver the Russian government is bankrolling many more.

News in Brief

  1. Macedonia MPs back name deal in initial vote
  2. EU to open trade talks with US on beef
  3. EU court orders Poland to suspend firing judges
  4. Japan to focus on circular economy at G20
  5. Italian budget 'significant deviation' from rules, says EU
  6. Podemos initiates debate on legalising marijuana in Spain
  7. Merkel: Focus on banking union at December EU summit
  8. Scotland confirms mad cow disease case

Opinion

Interpol, China and the EU

China joins a long list of countries - including Russia - accused of abusing Interpol's 'Red Notice' system to harras activists and dissidents.

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

Latest News

  1. What Italy's budget row is actually about
  2. EU preparing 'concentration camps' for migrants in Africa
  3. Poland to respect EU injunction on judicial purge
  4. EU votes on Facebook and plastic This WEEK
  5. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud
  6. Polish left a glimmer of hope in fight against illiberal democracy
  7. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  8. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us