On the background of the pandemic coronavirus remained unaddressed a number of important events. Among them – the beginning of cooperation 21 EU countries, the UK and Norway in the field of intelligence. Of its essence – DW.
23 European countries and contacts in the field of intelligence – they began a collaboration on a new platform, which was called Intelligence the College of Europe (College of Europe Intelligence, ICE). What are its capabilities and what are the differences from the existing forms of European cooperation in this area?
The French initiative
The creation of ICE – the result of the initiative of the President of France Emmanuel Makron. In his speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017, he raised the issue of strengthening interaction between the security services of European countries. The idea of the Makron was that the Europeans gained more independence from the information and know-how of the great powers – the US, China or Russia – in terms of intelligence.
And in may of 2019 in Paris was officially founded ICE. Although to participate in it were invited all member States of the European Union, the agreement of intent on 26 February 2020 in Zagreb was signed by only 21 countries plus Norway and the United Kingdom. So far out of ICE remain Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, Luxembourg and Greece.
According to unconfirmed reports that the five, as well as Switzerland, have over time to the status of the partner, implying a more flexible interaction. What this means remains unclear.
Intellectual exchange is spying
After the official Foundation of the ICE still left many issues associated with this project. The agreement of intent clearly stated, rather, not what it actually will do ICE, but what she’s not supposed to be. The new platform is not a place for the exchange of intelligence information, or to schedule security operations.
She has no organizational-legal form and domicile, but has a management Board and Supervisory Board. All activity results, intellectual products, applications or publications that will be made of ICE should not be mandatory.
Instead, ICE is conceived as a free platform, the country-members of which three times a year to communicate in the format of conferences and seminars. They will be collected by intelligence personnel, government officials, politicians, experts and scientists. Meetings and seminars designed to facilitate dialogue intelligence community with decision makers and experts, and to stimulate intellectual exchange. In this regard, the President Makron directly called for the development of a common “strategic intelligence culture.”
The Bernese club and the question of democratic control of the security services
ICE is not the only European platform of cooperation of special services. Since 1969, there is the so-called Bern club (Club de Berne) is an informal forum of heads of special services, where the exchange of data, experiences and opinions and discussing current issues in the intelligence community.
In March 2020, Austrian and Swiss media reported that the Bernese club shows much higher activity than previously thought. He, obviously, has its own databases and information systems in which personal information is stored.
In 2019 the club specially assembled team of experts in the field of security visited the state security service of Austria and conducted an audit in its premises. When this became known, a scandal broke out – and not only because the audit revealed a failure by the Austrians minimum security requirements and secrecy. Much greater was the outrage from the fact that representatives of the Berne club are generally allowed to conduct such verification.
The fact that – like ICE – Bernese club has neither a Secretariat nor a legal framework as a supranational platform not belonging to the EU and not subject to any democratic control. This meant that the team had no formal authority to check the premises and information of any kind whatsoever by the Austrian authorities.
Number of fora for cooperation of the security services grows
In fact, in EU there are formal structures for cooperation in the field of intelligence. In addition to Europol, the police service of the European Union, since 2003 there has been Intelligence and situation centre of the European Union (INCTEN), up to 2012 – the joint situation centre (SitCen). He is subject to the European external action service, and – contrary to media reports – is not the intelligence of the EU.
Member countries of the European Union send military liaison officers in INCTEN located in Brussels. There the information received from the intelligence services of member States, transferred, analyzed and sent to the various units of the EU. As INCTEN not independently collects information using intelligence methods, rather, it is an analytical centre than classical intelligence. And since according to the treaties, which are the basis of the activities of the European Union, policy issues in the field of security left in the competence of member States, the appearance in the full sense of the word “exploration of the EU” in the future seems almost impossible.
Time will tell what will take the place of ICE among the many already existing forms of cooperation between the European intelligence services. With this new platform for their cooperation also will not be spared from basic problems that constantly confront other formats. As far as trust each other members of ICE? What can small member countries to offer big to support cooperation at a high level? And who controls and legitimizes this new platform? The scandal surrounding the activities of the Berne club emphasize the relevance and conflict potential of these issues. The States that joined ICE as well as their intelligence services, continue to remain silent on this issue.