Why Don't They Want a European CIA?

Article published on March 25, 2004
community published
Article published on March 25, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Following the Madrid Bombings and the growing terrorist threat a European CIA is becoming increasingly necessary. What is standing in the way?

With Gijs de Vries taking over as the European Union's first anti-terrorism co-ordinator, the question is not so much whether a European CIA is necessary, but when and on what terms it will emerge.

The attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11th forced Europe to consider pooling together what until now was guarded territory: intelligence services. Madrid is a stark reminder that, despite much talk, even in a united Europe national intelligence remained until now off limit.

Although the "European CIA," defended by Belgium and Austria, gathered lukewarm support, more than ever Europe is well aware it can't fight terrorist organisations without sharing information with different national agencies.

Information is Power

But countries like France or Great Britain, with a long tradition of intelligence gathering, fear a European CIA would undermine their own sovereignty. Although the Cold War is over, states still relish spying. The recent allegations by Britain's Clare Short, a backbencher and former Cabinet Minister who accused British secret services of bugging the office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, may just be the tip of the iceberg of a very active undercover community.

The British Trojan Horse

The US and its ability to skim information from a European intelligence outfit, using its historic British ally, might be another deep concern for the EU. A UK participation in a common intelligence service would force it to realign its long lasting "special relationship" with the US. The UK opting out would however not signal the death of a European CIA. As demonstrated with the Euro, the EU does not need London to undertake major initiatives.

At a time of growing US dissent regarding its never ending war on terror, a European CIA would be a needed (and experienced) counter voice in what remains a unilateral action that so far seems to fuel rather than diminish violence.