Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said today (23 March) that better cooperation of member states’ secret services was needed to respond to the challenge of terrorism.
Juncker spoke alongside French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who visited Brussels in the aftermath of yesterday’s terrorist attacks in the capital of the EU.
“It becomes more and more obvious that we must reflect over the better cooperation between our respective secret services,” he said in French.
Juncker said that he recalled the European Council in Tampere (Finland) of 1999. It had laid down the foundation for such a cooperation, and that the idea was reaffirmed following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA. At that time Juncker was prime minister of his native Luxembourg.
“But this is not being done, for reasons I cannot understand, although the need is obvious. Our knowledge of our immediate neighbourhood is not good enough. This is true for the countries of North Africa, and for their neighbours,” Juncker said.
He quoted, for a second time in recent months, French President Charles De Gaulle, who wrote in his memoirs “I flew with simple ideas to the complicated East.”
“The East is still complicated and our ideas are still simple,” he added.
Juncker said that if the member states had followed the Commission’s proposals, the security situation wouldn’t be as it is today.
“I think there is a form of recklessness that varies according to states. If terrible events happen, we give the impression we become conscious of the problem. But we should become conscious of the problem before the tragic events happen,” he said.
Juncker argued in favour of a “Union of security”, in the same way as countries have agreed to build a Union of energy, a Union of the capital markets or an economic and monetary Union.
Last November Juncker was quizzed on the need for a European intelligence service, an idea developed by the liberal ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt.
On that occasion, asked if Belgium was the weak link in European security, in view of the many Brussels connections in recent terrorist attacks, he said that Belgium was “one of them”.
Valls emphasised the “urgent” need to tighten controls on the European Union’s borders and for MEPs to adopt the Passenger Name Record (PNR) system first mooted in 2010. It would cover all international and internal EU flights while providing safeguards on access to and use of the data collected.