Verhofstadt calls for creation of EU intelligence agency

Guy Verhofstadt [European Parliament]

Faced with the failure of European security cooperation, the leader of the Liberals in the European Parliament has called for the creation of an EU intelligence agency. EURACTIV France reports

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, told MEPs that the creation of a European intelligence agency, as well as a corps of European border and coast guards, is more urgent than ever.

At a debate in Brussels on Wednesday (18 November), the Belgian politician focussed on the situation in Syria and the fact that France had broken new ground by activating article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Invoking article 42.7

“The activation of article 42.7 is a development that passed largely unnoticed, but that is of fundamental importance. Previously we would have invoked article five of NATO or article 222 of the Treaty of the EU, which concerns domestic security,” the MEP said.

Verhofstadt believes the activation of article 42.7 necessarily implies the creation of a European coalition that other states can contribute to.

>> Read: EU ‘unanimous’ in agreeing French treaty-call for help after attacks

“The bombing of the Russian plane was a real turning point in the Syrian crisis. Russia now understands that the real challenge is not to help Bashar Al Assad, but to fight IS.”

Cooperation between intelligence services called into question

The ALDE group leader said, “Cooperation between the EU’s intelligence services is a failure. After each tragedy, we realise that our cooperation doesn’t work. So we either have to make a mandatory system of exchange between national intelligence services, or create a European structure.”

Verhofstadt argued for the latter solution, which will be examined at the last European Council of the year, in December. For now, Greece and Sweden are opposed to the project.

“But these decisions have to be made. How many tragedies do we have to suffer before we make them?” he asked.

European states criticised over PNR

The Liberal leader also reaffirmed his support for the proposed creation of a European passenger name record system for air passengers entering or leaving the EU (PNR), under discussion at a European level for the last two years.

“Our group agrees, but we want an agreement on data protection in return; if we collect data so easily, we also have to protect it,” Verhofstadt said. The right wing of the European Parliament has accused the other political formations of blocking the PNR project.

>> Read: Passenger name record law passes first hurdle in Parliament

Under the current “minimalist” PNR proposal, passenger details would be collected and stored in separate national files. “Even the Americans are disappointed,” said Verhofstadt, who strongly criticised the plans. “It is inefficient to create 28 different files, we need just one.”

The asylum system was also among the EU policies the former Belgian prime minister picked out for urgent reform; he said the Dublin Regulation was anti-European. “The fact that countries bordering the Mediterranean have to register all the refugees is not solidary. Obviously they don’t do it, they can’t do it,” he said. 

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