The Brief: The European Bond, James Bond

In his State of the Union speech, President Juncker made a timid call for a European intelligence unit. He was wise enough not to call it a ‘European FBI’ or ‘DG CIA’ as that would only have given tabloid headline writers a field day.

If there is a place on Earth with the highest concentration of spies, that place has to be Brussels. Why are they here? Brussels is the global capital of espionage because it is the capital of Europe, though this is only an assumption.

But what instruments do European institutions have to protect themselves against spies? Almost none.

For counter-espionage, EU institutions rely on the services of the host country, which have failed to prevent some of its own buildings from being bugged, according to the media. And EU buildings outside EU territory are even more vulnerable.

The EU doesn’t have its own intelligence unit because this is a sacrosanct field where no country wants to show others what is behind the curtain.

It’s not just about national egos, it has a lot to do with protecting sources.  Many countries also don’t want to reveal their secret weapon because others could then see that it’s not sharp enough.

To play it safe, Juncker called for a European intelligence unit with limited scope: to ensure that data concerning terrorists and foreign fighters is automatically shared among intelligence services and with the police.

We could remind Juncker that the EU already has a counter-terrorism chief, sitting across the road in the Council building. Belgium’s Gilles de Kerchove should be on top of all the issues Juncker mentioned, if we are not mistaken.

But Juncker has something else in mind. If the EU is to have an army, needless to say, it would also need a European intelligence agency. Someday soon, the EU will start recruiting personnel fitting the James Bond profile, in full transparency and respecting gender balance.

The Roundup

Paris and Berlin put their foot down on “multi-speed Europe”. Read diplomats’ first reactions to Juncker’s speech here.

The EU is often hailed as the guardian of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law – but it may have lost its moral upper hand vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

An EU labour watchdog:Juncker’s plan to avoid social dumping and increase intra-EU mobility. 

Deliveroo, Uber & the like will pay social security, says German Labour Minister Thorben Albrecht. Read our interview here.

Amazon to collect VAT? The EU’s latest attempt to regulate digital platforms makes e-commerce platforms liable for tax evasion.

EU digital Commissioner Ansip calls on member states to chip in for the cyber emergency fund.

EU countries solemnly vow to help each other out in case Russia threatens to turn off the gas tap.

Current carbon market proposals will fail to deliver on emission cuts. Read our interview with Eurelectric boss Kristian Ruby.

MEP’s ambitions for forest ‘sinks’ to capture CO2 emissions fail to convince scientists.

The energy market is growing in diversity: this should be reflected in the governance of the Energy Union, write the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives and Energy Cities.

Juncker only paid lip service to the environment and climate change according to Greens and environmental NGOs.

Warmer China and EU relations prevented by…cold feet. On both sides, says report.

With the EMA bid, Greece is coming back to EU normality. Read our interview with Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Katrougalos.

Look out for…

The Eurogroup meets in Tallin. On the agenda: Greece under the spotlight.

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