European CIA, brilliant idea or useless fantasy?

The terrorist attacks of November 13, 2015 didn’t mean for politicians that they’d start searching for their possible responsibility in the worst attacks that ever happened in France. They’ve rather been concentrated on seeking responsibility outside their national borders. On the one hand, Belgium found itself responsible since several terrorists were residing on its soil. On the other hand, France allegedly failed to share useful intelligence with its neighbor. Yet there’s unanimity: if intelligence had been rightly exchanged, the attacks might have been prevented. This postulate only binds those who believe in it and the practical reality indicated that intelligence services, involuntarily overwhelmed by the geometrical growth of the threat, the unending flows of migrants and the absence of borders, are currently in charge of a mission impossible.

Therefore a European CIA is needed, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel stressed. Again, the starting point according to which an agency similar to the CIA would necessarily obtain better results than present agencies is closer to a Hollywood-like interpretation than based on objective facts. The complete political and legal union of Europe into a Federal Union like the United States is a pre-requisite for the existence of a common intelligence organization at the European level. Considering the growing backlash of the peoples of Europe against the European Union (EU) and the implication of foreign interests sometimes “friendly ones” which are decidedly hostile, decades of talks starting today seem insufficient to achieve political Europe.

Strictly speaking, national security is an activity that is national. That’s why interests, engagements abroad, cooperation and threats do vary according to the country. The terrorist threat in France isn’t identical to the one assessed in Luxemburg. Germany’s or the UK’s collaboration with the US is not the same as France’s. Language, culture, legal framework are many parameters which must be harmonized before any first step towards a European intelligence service. As a result, the only realistic solution consists of deepening if not automatizing coordination and intelligence sharing between European countries, without guarantee that is will prevent a new 11/13. Without Europe constituted as a same sovereign and independent nation, the idea of a European CIA will still lack the basic compulsory common denominator for the building of an effective intelligence service.

Stopping flows of migrants and setting up real borders are the minimal condition for a relative national security for EU member countries. Without this, the whole discussion around the effectiveness of counterterrorism is rather political spectacle than any sincere defense of European citizens’ safety against terrorism.

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