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Prospects for a European Common Intelligence Policy


Prospects for a European Common Intelligence Policy

Source: Central Intelligence Agency; Unclassified Report, written by Ole R. Villadsen (*), recently graduated with a Master of Arts in National Security Studies at Georgetown University. Written this summer 2000, it was released by the CIA on November 29, 2000.


Looking back, future European scholars and officials are likely to regard the 1990s as the critical turning point in the formation and structure of a European common intelligence policy (CIP). Just as the 1950s laid the foundation for the creation of the European Single Market and common currency, the 1990s laid the foundation for the creation of a European intelligence policy as well as its probable structure. From the 1991 Treaty of Maastricht, which established the European Union (EU), to the December 1999 EU summit in Helsinki, Finland, European leaders increasingly highlighted the need for Europe to develop intelligence collection and analysis capabilities autonomous of the United States as a necessary component of a European common defense and security policy. Contemporary scholars should be primarily concerned not with whether a European common intelligence policy will develop, but how it will develop and in what form.

Despite the existence of motivating factors for increased cooperation, obstacles such as concerns over sovereignty, the fear of damaging privileged NATO relationships, and institutional limitations, probably will prevent the creation of a supranational European intelligence authority. While European intelligence cooperation will improve in important ways, it is likely to remain decentralized and primarily reactive, and is unlikely to pose any serious competition to NATO in the near term.

Background: Growing Political Momentum

Political momentum in Europe for increased security cooperation accelerated during the 1990s. The Treaty of Maastricht negotiated by the EU in 1991 helped set the agenda, establishing as EU objectives the implementation of a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) as well as the eventual framing of a common defense policy. There were no means established to implement a CFSP, however, nor did the treaty make any specific mention of increasing intelligence cooperation within the CFSP framework.

The Gulf War proved more of an impetus to a common European intelligence policy than Maastricht. Dependence on the United States for intelligence during the Gulf War convinced France that it needed improved autonomous collection capabilities, especially with regard to space based assets.(1) Following the Gulf War experience, France played a leading role in encouraging the development of autonomous European intelligence capabilities.

European experiences in Bosnia again highlighted Western Europe's excessive dependence on the United States. US communications, intelligence, and surveillance capabilities were key factors in the success of the 30,000-man Bosnia peace implementation force (IFOR).(2) While the United States shared much of its intelligence with its European allies, occasionally it refused to do so.(3) Some European governments were frustrated by their inability to provide independent assessments of developments in the Balkans based on their own intelligence,(4) further highlighting Europe's lack of an independent intelligence collection capability to support a CFSP. Nevertheless, significant high-level political support for developing a European CIP had not yet materialized.

The Treaty of Amsterdam, however, negotiated by EU member states in 1997, made several changes to the CFSP to enhance its effectiveness. First, the Treaty created the new office of High Representative for the CFSP to "assist the Council in matters coming within the scope of the CFSP, in particular through contributing to the formulation, preparation and implementation of policy decisions, and, when appropriate, and acting on behalf of the Council at the Presidency's request, through conducting political dialogue with third countries" (Art. 26).(5)

The so-called Petersberg tasks (i.e. humanitarian and rescue mission, peacekeeping, and crisis management, including peace enforcement) are explicitly mentioned in the treaty as aspects of the EU's security policy. Finally, the Amsterdam Treaty suggested the potential incorporation of the Western European Union (WEU), with its existing military and intelligence structures, into the EU. While the treaty made several positive contributions to the CFSP, there was still no mention of the need for enhanced intelligence cooperation, a puzzling fact considering the important role intelligence could play in assisting the CFSP.

More profound changes occurred in 1998 and 1999. The first was that in December 1998, British and French leaders meeting in St. Malo, France agreed that the EU should have "the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible forces [and] the means to decide to use them." Furthermore, the St. Malo declaration stated that the EU must be given "a capacity for analysis of situations, sources of intelligence, and a capability for relevant strategic planning" (emphasis added). While the St. Malo declaration lacked detail, the underlying principles were revolutionary for the British. Previously, the British had argued that the European Union should keep out of defense, to avoid duplicating NATO functions.(6) British Prime Minister Tony Blair, however, was now suggesting that current attitudes towards the CFSP were marked by "weakness and confusion" and were "unacceptable." During the EU summit in Pörtschach, Austria in October 1998, Blair proposed as possible remedies dissolving the WEU into the EU and establishing modern and flexible European forces.(7) This British policy turnaround set the stage for important changes in European security policy.

Second, EU leaders meeting in Cologne, Germany in June 1999, at the height of the NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, agreed to several important declarations affecting the EU's CFSP and the development of autonomous intelligence capabilities. The Cologne declaration repeated the St. Malo statement but added that military forces needed to be ready to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO." The document declared that achieving these goals required "the maintenance of a sustained defense effort, the implementation of the necessary adaptations and notably the reinforcement of our capabilities in the field of intelligence, strategic transport, [and] command and control" (emphasis added).

European decision-makers were probably goaded by the war in Kosovo, which highlighted in vivid and embarrassing detail Europe's dependence on the US military, especially in intelligence and command and control.(8) To equip the EU with a capacity for "analysis of situations, sources of intelligence, and a capacity for relevant strategic planning," the Cologne summit leaders highlighted the need for a permanent Political and Security Committee, an EU Military Committee to make recommendations to that committee, a Situation Center, and other resources such as a Satellite Center and an Institute for Security Studies. Thus EU leaders not only embraced the need for increased intelligence cooperation, but also understood the need for additional European organizations to turn words into action.

Third, European Union leaders meeting in Helsinki, Finland, in December 1999, and at a follow-up meeting in Sintra, Portugal in February 2000, agreed to major changes in European security and defense policy, many of which were initially suggested in Cologne. These new plans call for a 15 brigade multinational army corps of 50-60,000 troops supported by airpower and warships. This mobile, professional force is due to be combat ready by December 2003, although EU leaders will aim for completion by June 2003. Three additional bodies will also be established to support EU defense policy: a Political and Security Committee composed of ambassadors with an advisory role to the EU Council of Ministers, a Military Committee of senior officers, and a Multinational Planning Staff.(9) While details of the intelligence support to be provided to the multinational force are not yet available, this level of support is likely to require significantly increased intelligence cooperation. Furthermore, as agreed to in Cologne and Helsinki, the WEU and its existing intelligence structures are to be eventually incorporated into the EU.

The political consensus and accompanying momentum for meaningful intelligence cooperation have increased significantly and appear to be at their highest point since Maastricht. The Persian Gulf and Balkan crises have been sufficiently traumatic to convey the message that if Europe is serious about achieving the objective of a common foreign, security, and defense policy, there is an urgent requirement for a common European intelligence policy.(10) However, actually developing a CIP will require more than lofty mission statements.

Intelligence Cooperation and Institutional Developments in the 1990s

Although high-level support for increased intelligence cooperation in Europe did not emerge until the late 1990s, a significant amount of actual intelligence cooperation nonetheless occurred. There have been bilateral and multilateral intelligence exchanges, developments in the WEU, the Hélios satellite project, and intelligence sharing during military exercises and operations. While falling far short of a CIP, this cooperation has helped establish a baseline from which one could emerge, and cooperation has identified many of the problems that must be overcome.

Bilateral and Multilateral Intelligence Cooperation

Strategic intelligence cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom is perhaps the most significant example of bilateral intelligence sharing. Allied intelligence cooperation, however, has not been limited to this relationship. The United States has established intelligence exchanges with other allies,(11) and even created West Germany's post-war intelligence organization. But while the United States has been an integral part of intra-NATO intelligence exchanges, exclusively European cooperation has been far less extensive. Beyond US-UK intelligence sharing:

What is not as well recognized is the scale of other less complete exchanges that have developed with other Western countries and between them. The result is a patchwork of bilateral and multilateral arrangements of all kinds and all degrees of intimacy. The patchwork is unusual in its secrecy, but otherwise is not unlike the intergovernmental arrangements that have developed in other specialized areas.(12)

Moreover, where there has been significant cooperation between European countries, the parties involved have tended to keep it secret. European regional intelligence cooperation on terrorism and organized crime has been documented and exists within such decentralized organizations as the Bern and Trevi groups.(13) While foreign military and political intelligence cooperation on the national level undoubtedly exists, most of these exchanges probably take place on a quid pro quo basis rather than in organized and entrenched organizations. The 1996 WEU Assembly Report, A European Intelligence Policy, specifically identifies as a motive to establish a CIP the fact that "existing bilateral cooperation between different WEU member states in intelligence questions is not a satisfactory basis for a common European intelligence policy."(14)

The Western European Union

The Western European Union has taken a leading role in developing and encouraging intelligence cooperation among European countries. Specifically, the WEU Intelligence Section and the WEU Satellite Center have institutionalized to a certain extent European intelligence cooperation. These structures are likely to be incorporated along with the WEU into the EU over the next few years. WEU intelligence cooperation has focused primarily on imagery intelligence (IMINT), however, with a notable lack of emphasis on signals intelligence (SIGINT), human intelligence (HUMINT), and tactical intelligence cooperation. Although the WEU has provided a basis for future intelligence cooperation, these institutions will not serve as a satisfactory basis for a common intelligence policy.

The WEU Intelligence Section

An excellent example of institutionalized intelligence cooperation at the European level is the WEU Intelligence Section. This organization is part of the WEU Planning Cell and resides at the headquarters level. Created in September 1995, it has a staff of six. The Intelligence Section receives and synthesizes classified intelligence from WEU member states as well as the Satellite Center (described below), then provides a finished product to the WEU Council, the ten full member states, and three associate members.(15)

While the WEU Intelligence Section has had an impact on European intelligence cooperation, in its present form it is "an extremely modest body."(16) First, the Permanent Council must formally task the Section before work may begin. Second, the Section receives intelligence only from those states that will share it. In practice, only half of the ten Member States regularly supply useful intelligence.(17) Finally, with a staff of only six, the depth and quality of analysis are limited. The Section's main task is simply filing the intelligence data it receives.(18) It is likely that the European Union will acquire the WEU Intelligence Section in some form when the WEU is absorbed. To be a potential model for future cooperation, however, these limitations will have to be overcome.

The WEU Satellite Center

In May 1991, WEU Ministers agreed to establish the Torrejon Satellite Center following the WEU Assembly's recommendations on the strategic value of space-based observation. The Satellite Center was inaugurated in April 1993 and became a "WEU subsidiary body," or permanent facility, in May 1995. It was declared operational in 1997. On November 10, 1999, the WEU Technological and Aerospace Committee set a timetable to transform the Torrejon Satellite Center into a European Union defense unit in accordance with the EU Cologne declaration.(19) The Satellite Center's missions are:

  • General security surveillance of areas of interest to the WEU;
  • Assistance in verifying the implementation of treaties;
  • Assistance in armaments and proliferation control;
  • Support for Petersberg missions;
  • Maritime surveillance and environmental monitoring.(20)

Although termed a "Satellite Center," the facility neither owns nor operates any satellites. Instead, the WEU's Satellite Center purchases commercial imagery and analyzes it for the WEU council and individual WEU governments who request it. By 1998, approximately 40 percent of the Center's imagery came from France's SPOT 1 and 2 satellites, 20 percent came from India's IRS-1C satellite, 17 percent from Hélios 1 (owned and operated by France, Spain, and Italy), and 15 percent from Russian imagery satellites. The Satellite Center also orders imagery from ERS-1 and 2 (European Space Agency), Landsat 4 and 5 (USA), and Radarsat (Canada). The Satellite Center has a budget of $11 million, which is approximately 37% of the WEU budget, and has a staff of 68 persons.(21)

Crises in the Balkans and Africa in the mid-1990s prompted increased use of the facility to aid in political decisionmaking and military planning. For example, during the Central African Great Lakes crisis, Satellite Center images of the Mugunga camp were used to evaluate refugee movements, study the water situation, plan for a possible airdrop of food, and help simulate a humanitarian assistance deployment.(22) Nevertheless, until 1997, political limitations restricted the Satellite Center's ability to perform its missions. The Center could only provide information on crisis areas recognized as such by the Council, and thus could not create permanent or standing imagery requirements to monitor and detect crisis indicators. On May 13, 1997, however, WEU ministers gave the Center a "general surveillance mission," and the Satellite Center is now able to order images to develop a database for future reference.(23)

Following the 1997 changes, the Satellite Center's utility has increased. By October 1998, the WEU council had ordered 68 separate dossiers from the Satellite Center on crises in Europe and Africa alone. The WEU Council has also been making greater use of the facility--not necessarily for tactical military situations, but for long-term strategic missions.(24) Analyzing more imagery will also strengthen the photo-interpretation skills of the Center's analysts.

The Satellite Center has also improved its speed and skills. Processing a 60km by 60km SPOT image that used to take 13 hours can now be done in two. Furthermore, the Center is developing plans for a secure digital link to the WEU Headquarters in Brussels and the 13 member nations, which will allow intelligence files to be transmitted in digital form.(25) Finally, the availability of one-meter resolution imagery from the US will strengthen the Center's performance.(26)

Despite these improvements, the Satellite Center's overall utility in a CIP is limited. Its satellite intelligence is useful mainly for background information on such areas as infrastructure.(27) Since the Center does not control its own satellites, it cannot guarantee that it will receive imagery when requested from commercial or foreign suppliers. The time required to access and analyze the imagery is too slow for tactical demands or a fast-moving crisis.(28) It still takes a week to produce a detailed report.(29) Thus, while the Satellite Center has made a small contribution to European intelligence cooperation, it has little to add in its current form.(30)

European Satellite Procurement: Hélios 1 & 2 and Horus

Like the WEU Satellite Center, the French-led Hélios program is one of the tangible successes in European intelligence cooperation. The project represents a leap forward in the European ability to collect, process and disseminate its own high-resolution imagery intelligence. Hélios 1, which comprises two satellites, was developed by Matra Marconi Space for the French armaments agency, Délégation Général pour l'Armement (DGA). Italy and Spain helped fund the program and hold 14 and 7 percent shares, respectively. The first Hélios satellite, Hélios 1A was launched in July 1995 and is expected to operate until 2002. Hélios 1B was launched in December 1999.

Since its 1995 launch, Hélios 1 has made some significant contributions to European intelligence cooperation. Originally, each contributing country would receive imagery in direct proportion to its investment. In its early days, each country ordered imagery specially encrypted to exclude the other two. During 1999, however, 17 percent of Hélios images were produced for all three countries, a figure expected to increase in the future.(31) Hélios imagery has also been used in WEU intelligence and military planning. In 1992, the Hélios partner countries and the WEU signed a Memorandum of Agreement to provide Hélios images.

Hélios 1A was also used successfully during the conflict in Kosovo to help prepare missions, obtain battle damage assessments after air strikes, and provide three-dimensional modeling for follow up missions.(32) General Jean-Pierre Kelche, chairman of France's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Hélios provided high-quality pictures showing damage with great precision, and also helped evaluate the numbers of refugees.(33) Efforts to reduce processing time and streamline distribution, along with the use of a Hélios transportable reception station, have also increased Hélios' utility in tactical intelligence and mission planning.(34)

Nevertheless, Hélios 1's contribution to a European CIP is limited. Hélios only images optically, which limits its use under cloud cover; it also lacks radar and infrared capabilities. Moreover, the myriad regulations associated with using Hélios imagery do not bode well for future cooperation. France, Italy and Spain have each applied their own procedures to protect the images, forcing liaison officers to use seven different codes in order to work together. The codes identify which partner states are permitted to view the imagery. Some images can be viewed only by the country ordering them, others are coded so two partners can read them, while some images are distributed to all three partners.(35) Should Europe ever decide to jointly procure and operate its own intelligence satellite system, participating states will have to exchange concerns over 'national sovereignty' for smoother cooperation.(36) Whether such cooperation can exist with all imagery or intelligence data among the entire EU, and in the absence of a crisis, is a serious question.

The MOU between the WEU and Hélios partners, moreover, does not permit the WEU to program the satellite. The WEU only has access to imagery available to all Hélios partners and only to its interpretation; it may not receive the original "signal" directly from the satellite. Thus, image authenticity--including the date taken--cannot be determined.(37) The WEU report A European Intelligence Policy, labeled the right to use Hélios 1 imagery "politically praiseworthy," but also drew attention to the "many practical problems to be solved in order to respect the many security and priority user constraints attached to the operation of Hélios 1."(38) These excessive security procedures, prompted by national sovereignty concerns, pose obstacles to Europe-wide cooperation.

The failure of the French to enlist German cooperation in the Hélios 2 and Horus satellite projects has also dealt a major blow to developing a European CIP. Hélios 2 is the French-led project follow-on to Hélios 1, and is supposed to include infrared as well as electro-optical imaging capabilities. Horus is composed of a two-satellite radar-imaging program.

Since 1995, French efforts to cooperate with Germany have been to no avail. Germany considered joining France after the German constitutional court authorized peacekeeping deployments outside NATO. The German government realized it needed telecommunications and observation satellites to support these forces,(39) and entertained the idea of joining the French program for several years. Following the Franco-German summit in Nuremberg in December 1996, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Jacques Chirac agreed on the need to possess "a strategic intelligence-gathering capability that will enable them to assess crisis situations independently." This was a clear reference to the Hélios 2 military observation satellite. Following this summit it appeared that Germany was willing to participate.(40)

By 1997, however, Germany had decided not to join the French-led program due to budget constraints. Controversy between Germany and France centered on France's request that Germany pay 15 percent of the $2 billion Hélios 2 program, in exchange for only 10 percent of the work contracts to build the satellite. Paris promised Bonn more work on the Horus satellite. Also critical was Lockheed Martin's turnkey system offer--comprising a photo reconnaissance satellite with a 1-meter resolution, launch services and ground station--for only $500 million. Officially, Germany said it was unable to earmark the necessary funding.(41)

Until Franco-German cooperation ended, this program was considered an important step toward a European satellite system.(42) Following Germany's decision, the French Délégation Général pour l'Armement (DGA) may insist on future cuts to the program, despite an existing contract with Matra Marconi Space.43 The participation of Italy and Spain in the Hélios 2 program is also in question following Germany's withdrawal.

European Satellite Procurement: WEU Proposals

In November 1998, the WEU proposed the development of a space-based observation mission suitable for civilian and defense use, which probably explains references to a satellite reconnaissance capability for the future EU multinational corps agreed to at the Helsinki summit. Despite Germany's decision on the Hélios 2 & Horus programs, it remains open to the idea of future European satellite cooperation.(44) Such a system would include small satellites fitted with optical and radar sensors used in civilian spacecraft and obtainable off-the-shelf. The estimated cost of the system is $1-1.5 billion and it reportedly could be operational by 2003.(45)

This program contrasts sharply with a satellite program proposed to the WEU in 1993. This more ambitious proposal, which requires the development and procurement of a range of satellites with capabilities similar to US systems, would have cost more than $10 billion.

The 1998 proposal shows some potential for the development of a CIP by keeping the price low due to budget constraints and using commercial off-the-shelf technology to address issues related to security and national sovereignty.(46)

Tactical Intelligence Cooperation and C4I

To be effective, a European CIP must be able to swiftly and accurately disseminate intelligence information to military forces. The ability to do so is crucial to the success of a European CIP as well as the multinational corps agreed upon in Helsinki.(47) This capability could be achieved through the development of a European Command, Control, Communication, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I) capability. The European militaries however, have been unable as yet to develop an autonomous capability, instead relying on NATO and US C4I capabilities and infrastructure.

During the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) experience in Bosnia from 1992-1995, European militaries suffered from this C4I deficiency. UNPROFOR troops in Bosnia were tasked with protecting aid convoys and the UN-designated "safe areas." As a UN operation, however, there was no initial provision for a centralized intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination capability. At the time, "traditional UN practice avoided the use of intelligence or covert methods, preferring instead to rely on raw information and the use of open channels of communication."(48) Consequently, raw information, gathered ad hoc by dedicated units, "often had to substitute for intelligence, at least in the early phases when collection plans were lacking and no capacity existed for processing the data gathered."(49)

Yet a growing need for tactical intelligence information existed, especially in areas through which convoys had to pass. To help address this need, European UNPROFOR members used NATO infrastructure and intelligence channels. NATO provided the UN headquarters by lifting infrastructure from the Northern Army Group Headquarters in Germany in order to form the UNPROFOR Command in Bosnia (BH Command) and to coordinate military operations in Bosnia.(50) Through information provided by NATO and the US, European UNPROFOR members were able to overcome some of the intelligence problems associated with this operation. However, the exclusion of non-NATO UNPROFOR members from receiving this intelligence undermined the principle of UN exclusive operational command.(51)

The UNPROFOR experience shows how much the European militaries relied on NATO and US intelligence capabilities and infrastructure. The Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) concept, agreed to at the 1996 NATO Summit in Berlin, permits a European-led force to use NATO intelligence and infrastructure assets when conducting military operations. Europe has a long way to go in assembling a C4I capability.

This point has not been lost on the Europeans. A 1998 WEU Parliamentary document, "A Command and Control System for WEU," builds a case for creating a WEU C4I capability. The document asserts that the WEU will be unable to conduct its own military operations "without the Organization first having a basic resource necessary to that effect: namely its own communication and information system, for command and control."(52) Such a system would also include a C4I capability, to ensure that the required resources, including intelligence information, are available to those that need them at the time needed.(53) To establish this system, however, the WEU would have to enhance existing capabilities, such as the WEU Situation Center and Satellite Center, and build new ones, such as communications and computer systems. Doing so, however, would duplicate existing NATO capabilities.

At the national level, some C4I developments may contribute to increased European intelligence cooperation. In particular, the French showcased a C4I capability during a multinational exercise involving France, Spain, Italy and Portugal called EOLE 98,(54) by fusing several command and information systems with intelligence assets such as Hélios. While falling short of NATO and US C4I capabilities, such a system could be used by a European-led CJTF.

The most significant obstacle to an autonomous C4I capability is that NATO C4I assets are already available, even to a European-led force. The French claim that the United States may not be willing to provide these assets, or would provide them only selectively; thus, Europe should develop its own capability.(55) Other European countries, such as the Netherlands, appear to be much more comfortable with their working relationships with the US and the prospect of future availability of NATO and US assets to a European-led CJTF.(56) Developing an expensive European C4I capability tat duplicates NATO capabilities, or is not completely interoperable with US and NATO equipment, may therefore be difficult to justify.

Despite their reliance on NATO and US intelligence and C4I assets, European military forces shared intelligence during the Bosnian IFOR and SFOR experiences. For example, German SIGINT units that were part of the French-led Multinational Division (MND) in Bosnia provided intelligence to the division-level French headquarters.(57)

There has also been tactical intelligence cooperation within multinational forces such as the EUROCORPS, to which France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and Luxembourg contribute troops. Each multinational unit contributes intelligence to the Corps' headquarters for use by the entire force, along with strategic intelligence from members' national intelligence services.(58)

Obstacles to the Development of a European Intelligence Policy

Some European intelligence cooperation developed during the 1990s, but it fell far short of a common policy necessary for an effective CFSP and autonomous defense capability. An audit completed in 1999 by the WEU on defense capabilities stated that "there is, as yet, no satisfactory sharing of strategic intelligence, either at the national or international level, that would enable joint European military staff to conduct in-depth analysis of a crisis situation."(59)

The most important obstacles to strengthening intelligence cooperation are those of security and the risk to sources. As Michael Herman (60) accurately points out:

Every new foreign exchange or element of cooperation is a new risk, through intelligence penetration of the foreign agency or its users, its careless handling or public leaking of the material, or its deliberate use of it in trading with other intelligence contacts. Multilateral 'clubs' and international networks of exchanges increase these risks geometrically. Security acts as a general counterweight to expansion and is the main reason why the many ad hoc exchanges have a pragmatic and cautious flavor about them.(61)

European intelligence cooperation to date has been hampered by emphasizing national sovereignty over sharing intelligence. Where cooperation exists, it has been largely in imagery collection and analysis using the WEU Satellite Center. IMINT is a necessary capability, but an effective CIP will also require cooperation in signals intelligence (SIGINT), and human intelligence (HUMINT), and be able to integrate them in all-source intelligence products.

Imagery cooperation to date, as illustrated by the WEU Satellite Center, the Hélios project, and the small satellite procurement proposal, has been successful primarily because much of the technology is commercially based, which limits the need to share highly classified information. Security protocols have fostered an elaborate and cumbersome classification system for Hélios imagery. The WEU Satellite Center cannot receive signals from Hélios directly and may only interpret the images. Even with increased European intelligence cooperation, "with the multiplication of exchanges of information, potential risks will tend to increase, which may produce a reluctance to continue those exchanges."(62)

Already there are indications that security concerns may prevent the new Political Security Committee from performing its functions. Javier Solana, the EU high representative on foreign and security policy, and his staff, will need access to intelligence to advise the Political Security Committee on security related matters. Nevertheless, European diplomats have voiced concern over the willingness of individual states to supply the new EU organs with highly sensitive intelligence data. The EU has yet to establish a satisfactory mechanism for sharing intelligence at the EU level.(63)

The second obstacle to intelligence cooperation is the fear of spoiling privileged relationships.(64) Many NATO countries have individual intelligence-sharing agreements with the United States. The French, determined to reduce their dependence on US intelligence capabilities, are the driving force behind the drive for European autonomy. France developed the Hélios system with Spain and Italy and has struggled to obtain German cooperation in the Hélios 2 program. The French have also played an important role by developing a C4I system for use by a European-led CJTF.

France's enthusiasm for autonomy is not universally shared. Despite the WEU Satellite Center, other European countries have neither increased their own intelligence capabilities nor pushed for more cooperation. Italian and Spanish participation in Hélios 1 was limited; their future participation in Hélios 2 is in doubt. The CJTF concept itself, in which a European-led force would rely on NATO and US intelligence assets, highlights the willingness of many European countries to rely on US intelligence capabilities.

The Franco-British declaration on the need for increased cooperation in defense matters was thus significant, given the close historical relationship between the UK and the US on these matters. Many smaller European countries, however, traditionally suspicious of any attempt to take responsibility for defense and intelligence away from NATO, were alarmed by the change in British policy. For example, Norway noted the British declaration at St. Malo in 1998 with some surprise and hesitation.(65) There may be limits on how far the British are willing to go. In February 2000, British government officials denounced a suggestion by former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, now president of the European Commission, that the EU take on a collective defense role, this mission still being the domain of NATO.(66)

The six European states that are NATO but not EU members--Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Iceland, and Norway--have also displayed alarm over attempts to move security policy out of NATO and into the EU. Turkey has even raised the possibility that if it remains excluded from EU security policymaking, it might work within NATO to block the EU from using NATO assets.(67) These six countries, along with other likeminded EU countries, may attempt to limit increased European security policy cooperation they deem threatening to existing relationships with the US through NATO.

Institutional obstacles also stand in the way of increased intelligence cooperation. 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.(68) These organizations also tend to view international relations as a zero-sum game, and may not agree with a cooperative approach to security and defense integration.(69)

Another institutional obstacle consists of the EU's and WEU's bureaucratic decision-making structures. As one critic notes, "intelligence, as a profession that is concerned with the unknown, the surprising and the unwelcome, does not seem to lend itself easily either to the current pace of the CFSP or to its diplomatic nature, where all action must wait for a high-level intergovernmental decision and must never go beyond the scope of its language."(70) Thus, the conservative nature of intelligence agencies coupled with the bureaucratic lethargy of the EU will also act to slow European intelligence cooperation.

Factors Driving Intelligence Cooperation

If European intelligence cooperation continues in the same limited fashion that it did early in the 1990s, there is little hope for a near-term European CIP. But the political momentum from the most recent summits may be able to overcome these obstacles. Factors such as the international security environment, domestic budgetary problems, and technological developments are likely to act as "drivers" of intelligence cooperation.

The post-Cold War security environment is an important factor that will continue to favor increased, rather than decreased, intelligence cooperation. Multiple diffuse threats requiring immediate collection and analysis are typical today. The proliferation of advanced conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime, and economic competition, all place difficult demands on national intelligence services. Europe's eastern and southern regions are plagued by ethnic conflict and political instability; intelligence could play a vital role. In this fragmented environment, there is "simply more classified and unclassified material available to be collected, analyzed and evaluated than can be handled by any single agency or bilateral agreement in Western Europe."(71)

There will always be more information available than a country can collect alone; this is a traditional reason for intelligence cooperation that existed long before the end of the Cold War.(72) The increase in intelligence information and analysis requirements since the end of the Cold War may help foster the political will to overcome these obstacles. Increased desire among politicians for better intelligence to deal with contemporary international issues, along with budget cuts that affect European intelligence services will put more pressure on them to overcome their reluctance to cooperate.(73) In order to develop the intelligence tools necessary to keep pace with the information age and to successfully deal with the above threats, European intelligence agencies increasingly will have to combine resources. Results can be obtained for the cheapest costs only at the European level.

And as defense cooperation increases, so must intelligence cooperation. If European leaders are serious about developing an autonomous defense capability, then increasing intelligence capabilities to support troop deployments should follow. Imagine the outcry there would be if soldiers of one EU country became casualties because information available to another EU country's intelligence had not been disseminated.(74) During the Helsinki summit, EU leaders agreed to create a multinational force of 50,000 to 60,000 troops by 2003. To be effective, this force will require intelligence cooperation far beyond current levels. European desire to make this force effective will help drive such intelligence cooperation.

The revolution in open source intelligence (OSINT) information, commercial technologies, and the "privatization of intelligence" will encourage intelligence collaboration to grow beyond current levels.(75) Proponents of the OSINT revolution argue that comprehensive monitoring of open sources can meet many of a state's intelligence requirements. For security-conscious national governments, individual states would not be required to divulge sources and methods.(76)

In addition, developments in commercial off-the-shelf technology (COTS) are likely to drive down the costs of intelligence-related technologies. For example, developments in commercial Earth Observation satellites, such as Space Imaging's IKONOS spacecraft, which is capable of one-meter resolution imagery, may someday enable the private sector to challenge the Intelligence Community's dominance of overhead imagery. Moreover, the growing number of commercial imagery providers and improvements in image quality may eventually make this imagery usable for intelligence.(77)

Creating databases for rapid electronic dissemination of information may aid member states in pursuing intelligence cooperation. This "pull" architecture would allow producers to make intelligence information available to a database from which users could draw.(78) Individual agencies could designate intelligence reports for release Europe-wide to a network shared by all members. Such an intranet system is currently under development by NATO, and could be replicated across Europe.(79)

Databases could be continuously updated as new information is received, rather than updated on a periodic or calendar-driven cycle.(80) Such a system would allow equal access to information by European countries, enhancing analysts' ability to collaborate--even on occasion with end users.(81) This would help break down institutional barriers and improve cooperation by facilitating exchanges between different national intelligence agencies.

The Future Shape of a Common European Intelligence Policy

Despite the perceived need for increased intelligence cooperation, political leaders are unlikely to relinquish control of their national intelligence agencies. Foreign policy differences and security and national sovereignty concerns will probably prevent a strong supranational intelligence body from emerging.

Nevertheless, greater cooperation in the future is a virtual certainty. The increased demand placed on national intelligence agencies probably will force them to pool resources. Intelligence integration "will happen when and if it offers functional advantages to the nations involved...especially in a situation where existing national approaches appear unsustainable."(82) Nevertheless, a European CIP is unlikely to be complex or highly formalized; instead, different SIGINT, HUMINT, or IMINT "clubs" may develop with varying memberships.(83)

Greater cooperation may also develop through existing structures in the WEU and EU. While intelligence collection will remain the prerogative of national agencies, multinational analysis centers may be established to jointly analyze the intelligence collected and its implications. For example, the Helsinki summit declaration envisions a multinational planning staff to collect information and make assessments. If European governments are willing to provide classified information to this body, as well as the necessary manpower and resources, it could make a significant contribution to European cooperation in intelligence analysis.

Multinational analysis centers may also play an important role in exploiting open source intelligence. These analysis centers could fuse open source information with other intelligence information provided by national agencies, possibly via electronic networks using Internet technology. With the availability of this information growing due to the information revolution, OSINT is likely to play a larger role in a future European intelligence policy.

IMINT will also continue to play an important role in a future European intelligence policy. IMINT technology is becoming increasingly available commercially and at lower prices. A future European intelligence policy may include procurement of small imagery satellites for civilian and military use, as well as the purchase of one-meter resolution commercial imagery.

Cooperation in developing C4I systems to disseminate tactical intelligence to military forces may also improve. As EU members begin to assemble a multinational force, they will need to improve their C4I capabilities. There is already concern over a growing interoperability gap in information systems between US and European forces. Nevertheless, many European countries will be reluctant to develop C4I capabilities that are incompatible with US and NATO systems because they do not believe that the United States will withhold assets from a European-led CJTF. The contribution of US intelligence assets and personnel to the Australian-led multinational force in East Timor could serve as a model for future operations. As a result, development of C4I systems and capabilities should occur at the NATO level and emphasize interoperability with the US.

Tactical intelligence cooperation between European military forces is also likely to improve. European countries have a history of sharing operational and tactical military intelligence through NATO. In Bosnia, European military units have shared intelligence provided by organic assets such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). In addition, European countries and the US have provided National Intelligence Centers (NICs) to NATO headquarters to channel intelligence from national strategic assets to NATO forces. Many of these areas of cooperation could be duplicated at the European level.


In the beginning of his article "European Intelligence Policy: Political and Military Requirements," Klaus Becher, a senior research fellow at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Germany, writes:

When asked about the prospects of European intelligence cooperation, or even a common intelligence policy within WEU and EU, most experts will express their conviction that not much is going to happen in this field anyway. So why should one think about it? (84)

This paper has aimed to show that the prospect for a European intelligence policy is an important topic for debate and that European intelligence cooperation is likely to improve in fundamental ways, although not without overcoming difficulties such as sovereignty, interoperability, and the relationships already established with NATO and the US to provide limited amounts of intelligence data.

Whether EU members have the political will and financial resources necessary to implement the momentous declarations from the Helsinki summit will set the pace for a European intelligence policy. Political and economic union have not developed swiftly or easily, and the development of a common intelligence policy is likely to be similar. The "drivers" favoring closer cooperation are significant enough that over the next few years it may be possible to transform these generalizations into more concrete proposals on the shape of a European common intelligence policy.


NATO: Belgium - Denmark - France - Germany - Greece - Italy - Luxembourg - The Netherlands - Portugal - Spain - UK - Canada - USA - Iceland - Norway - Turkey - Hungary - Poland - Czech Republic -

WEU: Belgium - Denmark - France - Germany - Greece - Italy - Luxembourg - The Netherlands - Portugal - Spain - UK - Ireland - Austria - Sweden - Finland -

EU: Belgium - Denmark - France - Germany - Greece - Italy - Luxembourg - The Netherlands - Portugal - Spain - UK - Ireland - Austria - Sweden - Finland -

(*) Editor's Note: Mr. Villadsen is the first recipient of the Walter L. Pforzheimer Award, which the Center for the Study of Intelligence will present annually for the best article on an intelligence-related subject written by a US graduate or undergraduate student. The award has been instituted to honor Mr. Pforzheimer, the founder of the Historical Intelligence Collection at the CIA Library, the Intelligence Community's greatest resource of literature on intelligence. Since he retired in 1974, he has continued to serve as a source of information and perspective to Directors of Central Intelligence, scholars, and many others on the past, present, and future of intelligence. He was named one of the CIA50 Trailblazers in 1997.


(1) David S. Yost, "France and the Gulf War of 1990-1991: Political-Military Lessons Learned," The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol.16, No. 3 (September 1993): 355.

(2) Jonathan Landay, "U.S. Military Outpaces Its NATO Peers," Christian Science Monitor, 29 September 1997, 1.

(3) John Palmer, "U.S. Refuses To Let London See Spy Report," The Guardian, 20 December 1994, p. 1; "U.S. - Europe Rift," Intelligence Newsletter No. 256 (18 January 1995).

(4) Interview with Colonel Norbert Stier, Military Attaché, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, 13 December 1999, Washington D.C. (hereafter, Stier interview).

(5) The first High Representative, Mr. Javiar Solana, the former Secretary General of NATO, took office on 18 October 1999.

(6) Charles Grant, "Britain Takes Lead Pushing For Stronger EU Defense Role," Defense News, 14 December 1998, 15.

(7) Margarita Mathiopoulos and István Gyarmati, "Saint Malo and Beyond: Toward European Defense," Washington Quarterly Vol. 22, No. 4 (Autumn 1999): 67.

(8) Richard Medley, "Europe's Next Big Idea: Strategy and Economics Point to a European Military," Foreign Affairs Vol.78, No.5 (September/October 1999): 18.

(9) Joseph Fitchett, "EU Takes Steps to Create a Military Force, Without Treading on NATO," International Herald Tribune, 1 March 2000.

(10) "European Intelligence Policy," Document 1517, Report submitted on behalf of the Defence Committee by Mr. Baumel, Chairman and Rapporteur, 13 May 1996, Assembly of WEU, Paris, France.

(11) Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the United States Intelligence Community, Preparing for the 21st Century: an Appraisal of United States Intelligence (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1996). Available from Internet. Accessed 12 December 1999.

(12) Michael Herman, Intelligence Power in Peace and War (Cambridge: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1996), 203.

(13) Peter Klerks, An Inventory of European Intelligence Services (Domestic Security Research Foundation, April 1993). Available from Internet. Accessed on 16 April 2000.

(14) "A European Intelligence Policy," WEU Assembly Document 1517.

(15) Frédéric Oberson, "Intelligence Cooperation in Europe: The WEU Intelligence Section and Situation Center," in Towards a European Intelligence Policy: Chaillot Paper #34 (Paris: WEU Institute for Security Studies, December 1998), 19-23.

(16) "A European Intelligence Policy," WEU Assembly Document 1517.

(17) Oberson, 22.

(18) "A European Intelligence Policy," WEU Assembly Document 1517.

(19) "Spy Satellites First Line in Europe's Defenses," Intelligence Newsletter, No. 370 18 November 1999.

(20) WEU Secretariat-General, WEU Today (Brussels: Western European Union, March 1998).

(21) Interview with Bernard Molard, Director, WEU Satellite Center, Defense News, 7 December 1998, 46.

(22) Bernard Molard, "How the WEU Satellite Center Could Help in the Development of a European Intelligence Policy," in Towards a European Intelligence Policy: Chaillot Paper #34 (Paris: WEU Institute for Security Studies, December 1998), 34.

(23) "Wider Missions for Torrejon," Intelligence Newsletter No. 312, 19 May 1997; Molard, 32.

(24) Peter de Selding, "Defense Officials Tap WEU Satellite Center Expertise," Defense News, 19 October 1998, 6.

(25) "Image Analyst Core of Space Effort," Intelligence Newsletter No. 345, 29 October 1998.

(26) Molard, 34.

(27) "A European Intelligence Policy," WEU Assembly Document 1517.

(28) Molard, 36.

(29) Defense News interview with Bernard Molard, Director, WEU Satellite Center in Defense News, 7 December 1998, 46.

(30) Stier interview.

(31) Peter B. de Selding, "Three Nations Find Common Uses for Hélios," Defense News, 13 December 1999, 24.

(32) Ibid.

(33) Pierre Sparaco, "French Satellite Details Air Strike Damages," Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12 April 1999, 26.

(34) Peter B. de Selding, "Three Nations Find Common Uses for Hélios," Defense News, 13 December 1999, 24.

(35) Peter B. de Selding, "WEU Seeks Partnership in Hélios Satellite," Defense News, 27 November 1995, 3; "Rivalry Blinds WEU," Intelligence Newsletter No. 272, 28 September 1995.

(36) "Rivalry Blinds WEU," Intelligence Newsletter No. 272, 28 September 1995.

(37) Ibid.

(38) "A European Intelligence Policy," WEU Assembly Document 1517.

(39) Giovanni de Briganti, "Germany Plans for Military Assets In Space," Defense News, 17 October 1994, 1.

(40) J.A.C. Lewis, "France is Determined to Play a Central Role in Europe's Defense," Jane's Defence Weekly, 12 February 1997, 20.

(41) Interview with Colonel Norbert Stier, Military Attaché, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, 13 December 1999, Washington D.C.

(42) "A European Intelligence Policy," WEU Assembly Document 1517.

(43) Peter B. de Selding, "France May Trim Hélios Contract," Defense News, 9 March 1998, 4.

(44) Stier interview.

(45) Peter B. De Selding, "WEU Advances Small Satellite Plan," Defense News, 23 November 1998, 4.

(46) Conversation with H.E. Joris M. Vos, Ambassador of the Netherlands, 28 October 1999, Washington D.C.

(47) Stier interview.

(48) James Gow, Triumph of the Lack of Will: International Diplomacy and the Yugoslav War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 114.

(49) Hugh Smith, "Intelligence and UN Peacekeeping," Survival (Autumn 1994): 177.

(50) Gow, 113.

(51) Smith, 177.

(52) "A Command and Control System for WEU," Document 1621, Report submitted on behalf of the Technological and Aerospace Committee by Mr. Cunliffe, Rapporteur, 5 November 1998, Assembly of WEU, Paris, France.

(53) Ibid.

(54) See "C3R: un système d'information du poste de commandement de la force interarmée multnationale (FIM)," Sirpa Actualite, 4 July 1998, 30.

(55) Conversation with Dr. Yves Boyer, Deputy Director of Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique, 14 October 1999, Washington D.C.

(56) H.E. Joris M. Vos, Ambassador of the Netherlands, "CFSP: How Common Can You Get," Speech at Georgetown University, 28 October 1999, Washington D.C.

(57) Stier interview.

(58) Ibid.

(59) Luke Hill, "WEU Audit Finds Weak Spots in European Forces," Defense News, 6 December 1999, 6.

(60) Michael Herman, former British senior intelligence officer and author of Intelligence Power in Peace and War.

(61) Herman, 207.

(62) Alessandro Politi, "Why is a European Intelligence Policy Necessary?" in Towards a European Intelligence Policy: Chaillot Paper #34 (Paris: WEU Institute for Security Studies, December1998), 5.

(63) Luke Hill, "Political, Technical Barriers to Impede EU Data-Sharing," Defense News, 6 December 1999, 3.

(64) Politi, ibid. 5.

(65) Douglas Barrie, "Calls for European Defense Identity Potential Problem for WEU Member," Defense News, 29 March 1999, 10.

(66) Douglas Barrie and Luke Hill, "British Say EU Plan for Common Defense Undermines NATO," Defense News, 28 February 2000, 3.

(67) Peter Finn, "Six in NATO Upset over EU Corps Plan," Washington Post, 9 April 2000, A16.

(68) Herman, 207; Politi, 7.

(69) Klaus Becher, "European Intelligence Policy: Political and Military Requirements," in Towards a European Intelligence Policy: Chaillot Paper #34 (Paris: WEU Institute for Security Studies, December, 1998), 49.

(70) Ibid., 48.

(71) Politi, 8; see also John M. Nomikos, "Intelligence Policy in the European Union: Dilemmas and Challenges," RIEAS Papers and Reports, 1 April 2000 for an excellent description of the intelligence challenges facing Europe. Available from Internet. Accessed on 4 April 2000.

(72) Herman, 204.

(73) Becher, 50-51.

(74) Ibid., 51.

(75) Andrew Rathmell, "The Privatisation of Intelligence: A Way Forward for European Intelligence Cooperation." Paper for the WEU Institute for Security Studies seminar "Towards a European Intelligence Policy," 13-14 March 1997, Paris France. Available from Internet. Accessed on 10 December 1999.

(76) Ibid.

(77) Ibid.

(78) Peter Sharfman, "Intelligence Analysis in an Age of Electronic Dissemination," in Intelligence Analysis and Assessment (Portland: Frank Cass, 1996), 203.

(79) Stier interview.

(80) Sharfman, 205.

(81) Ibid., 211.

(82) Becher, 48.

(83) Politi, 16.

(84) Becher, 46.


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