insideintelIoannis (John) M Nomikos
(RIEAS Director)

Copyright: Research Institute for European and American Studies ( Publication date: 11 January 2015

Since 2005, RIEAS has extensively written on the need for the European Commission to consider the establishment of a new service focused on European Intelligence matters. Moreover, intelligence and security analysts in the European Union member states who promote the idea of a European common intelligence policy argue that the toughest challenge for the European Union has been the highly sensitive area of intelligence-sharing.

RIEAS Journal of Mediterranean and Balkan Intelligence (JMBI) published its December 2014 issue on "European Intelligence in an Era of Change."(1) The recent terrorist incidents in Paris (7 January 2015), Burgas (Bulgaria) on 18 July 2012, London (7 July 2005) and Madrid (11 March 2004) requires the European Commission to act accordingly in order to confront a series of future terrorist incidents in the EU member states.(2)

Intelligence organizations generally believe that no other organization's analysis is as reliable as their own, which leads them to place more faith and confidence in their own work.

These organizations also tend to view international relations as a zero-sum game, and may not agree with a cooperative approach to security and defence integration. Improving intelligence cooperation is a top priority but, in the long-term, the root causes of conflicts must be understood and addressed. An emerging intelligence service in the European Union should have as its most important task the analysis of overtly as well as covertly gathered information and preparing it for use by policymakers. One of its goals is to bring together experts from both the intelligence and security services.

How a European Union intelligence service might fit in the overall European Union mechanism and what its shape and role might be is a prospective challenge for the EU member states. Eventually, by establishing an intelligence service, Europe might be able to foresee a situation which could be threatening to the European Union states such as a crisis in the Balkans or prospective religious turmoil or biochemical attacks in Europe or Middle East/Gulf states to terrorist acts; Southern European Union member states such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are facing the effects of transnational crime and Muslim fundamentalism via illegal migration and human trafficking; the Council of Ministers should be involved as well by informing appropriately their national intelligence services.

Since the Council of Ministers is the official decision-making body of the European Union, it should receive reports and analyses from the European Union intelligence service. However, the problem here is that a minister of foreign affairs might have difficulties and conflicts in dealing with the foreign affairs of his own country and that of the European Union at the same time. Of course, there are ways around this; for instance, the creation of a Committee on European Intelligence could refer directly to the European Union Commission.

On the other side, the European Parliament would be the one to approve the budget of the European Union intelligence service. The European Parliament could in the future also become the institution to provide oversight over the European Union's intelligence service operations comparable to U.S. Congressional oversight over the intelligence community in the United States.

Since the European Union member states address the possibilities of a future European army, even if it remains simply a peacekeeping facility, it can be reasoned that they should also address the creation of an intelligence policy. Reduced duplication and closed cooperation among the member states offers an opportunity for efficient intelligence cooperation.

The next step in the process of creating an intelligence service in Europe would be to distribute tasks according to the operational and informational capacities of a given national service. For instance, French intelligence has been traditionally interested in Africa, and Spain in South America, while Balkan members of the European Union focus their intelligence operations on combating illegal migration/human trafficking, radical Islamic networks and organized crime-money laundering. It would also be possible to make of wider use by the European Union's analytical and intelligence units of the following: information and non for profit research think tanks upon open source intelligence analyses which would allow the European Union intelligence service to advise the European Commission and the Council on foreign relations and security issues for prospective conflicts.

In conclusion, in the twenty-first century, intelligence work promises to be fundamentally different. If so, an evolutionary approach toward the training of intelligence personnel and the development, as well as institutions of collection methods and systems – even toward the process of analysis itself –will no longer suffice to assure timely and accurate intelligence about the threats ahead.


(1) Click on: European Intelligence in an Era of Change

(2) Click on: A European Union Intelligence Service for Confronting Terrorism

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