Monday

22nd Apr 2019

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.

Prison suicide rates in France highest in Europe

Suicide rates per 10,000 inmates in 2017 in France stood at 12.6, higher than any other European country. The latest figures are part of a much bigger report out Tuesday by the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us