True, Europe wants it somehow in a timid way, but let's hope that everything is still ahead. Moreover, this desire for independence affects increasingly sensitive areas, in particular, the intelligence.
In May 2019, in Paris, a number of European countries created the Intelligence College of Europe, or “Intelligence College of Europe”, (ICE). True, the protocol of intent the participating countries signed only at the end of February 2020, at a conference in Zagreb, and not by all European states, - but in such a matter as intelligence this is really not a bad term.
Its founders included 23 European states, including 21 EU members, as well as Great Britain and Norway. So far, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, Luxembourg and Greece, as well as Switzerland, which usually doesn’t enter anywhere and does not join anyone, turned out to be “overboard”. Although in this case, everything is probably still ahead - according to the organizers, over time, these non-aligned states should receive some partnership status, which nevertheless will allow more active and fruitful interaction with them within the framework of the newly created organization.
It should be clarified right away that at this stage, ICE is not some kind of rigid intelligence structure capable of independently conducting espionage operations outside the EU, but rather a platform for exchanging information. Strictly speaking, in the final protocols, along with the proclamation of the creation of this collegium, it is indicated rather than what it will not be engaged in, rather than vice versa. Among the areas of activity, only meetings and seminars are indicated, to which representatives of participating countries will meet three times a year. Moreover, these will be not only intelligence representatives, but also politicians, scientists, officials, experts, and so on. Moreover, direct exchange of intelligence information is not planned there, as well as discussions or development of plans for real intelligence operations.
To the reasonable question "why is all this necessary?" No one has a clear answer, including, possibly, the organizers of the entire event. But something this event nevertheless clarifies, and let's try to analyze it a little.
First of all, it is believed that the creation of ICE was the result of the French initiative. Back in 2017, at the Sorbonne, French President Emmanuel Macron during his speech raised the issue of strengthening the interaction of European intelligence. According to him, it turned out that Europe should gain greater independence from the USA, Russia and China in the field of information and advanced technologies for its receipt. And the proclamation of ICE itself took place in Paris, which also emphasizes the role of France as a locomotive of this process.
Paris, striving to play a more active role in world political processes, sometimes really recalls that France was once one of the dominant powers in the world. Strong in modern France and skepticism about the role of the United States in modern Europe. This is probably why Paris is increasingly cooperating with Berlin to solve some European problems directly, bypassing Washington's too tight custody.
This decision, among other things, emphasized that France’s role in modern Europe is still quite high, and if its tandem with Berlin strengthens, especially after Britain exited the EU, Europe may eventually cease to be just a US trophy in World War II and the Cold War and gain some kind of political and military sovereignty.
At the same time, not only political and geopolitical motives move the leadership of the Fifth Republic. France in recent years has been the victim of several major terrorist attacks, including the shooting of citizens on the streets of Paris in 2015. Then about 130 people died in the French capital, and one of the reasons for the unavailability of the French special services for such attacks was called poor work and inconsistency of both the French and other intelligence services. In addition, several attacks in France were just averted, and not least thanks to intelligence information received from other countries.
That is, in this case, both political and purely practical interests converged. France fully felt the consequences of poor work or inconsistency of the special services, so its initiative was to some extent suffered and paid for by the blood of ordinary Frenchmen.
At the same time, the caution of other states in everything connected with intelligence is also understandable. The level of secrecy in intelligence is such that even employees with general ranks know only what they are supposed to do in the service. That is, they try by any means to avoid the dissemination of information even among their own, repeatedly verified, personnel. What can we say about the transfer of intelligence to other intelligence, which increases the risk of unwanted leakage at times, or even orders of magnitude?
In the modern intelligence community, there are few examples of cooperation between special services on really sensitive issues. Yes, the CIA sometimes works with the British MI-6, with Mossad. Perhaps, the KGB also had one partner at one time - the East German intelligence “Stasi”. All the rest, we will be frank, were used situationally and were not suitable as full-fledged partners, if only because of their lack of competence and the inability to keep track of each serviceman from the social camp (what if he surrenders to the enemy?).
It is clear that it is unlikely that anyone will risk throwing really relevant information into a huge cauldron of 23 special services, which can lead, for example, to declassifying a valuable source of information. And the caution with which they are trying to create a new intelligence forum is understandable - in the best case, decades will pass before the advent of pan-European intelligence, and if this happens, the special services of France, Germany, and Great Britain will still play a leading role in it.
It is quite interesting that among the states that were not members of the ICE, there were immediately 3 Eastern European countries - Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria. Oddly enough, this may indicate US dissatisfaction with the process that has begun. The fact is that US influence on its East European “partners” is significantly higher than even on Germany or Belgium. The constant intimidation of the “Russian threat” makes them much more cautious in everything related to greater independence and independence from the United States. As for Poland, some great-power jealousy is also possible here - Poland has long sought to play a more significant role in the EU and other European structures, and it may simply not have been comfortable with the proposed status. In addition, Warsaw actively claims to be the main ally of the United States and Great Britain in continental Europe, which means that even the shadow of possible U.S. discontent puts an end to Poland on the not-so-important European initiative.
Here you can argue - but what about the UK? After all, she is indeed a faithful ally of Washington, proven over decades and wars, why did she support this initiative and even became a member of the founders of ICE?
But here, just, everything is very simple - London in this structure will rather fulfill the role of an overseer. Its task is to keep the process under control and timely suppress too bold initiatives of Paris and Berlin. That is, British intelligence entered the ICE first of all, sorry for the pun, with intelligence goals. Otherwise, it’s rather difficult to explain her membership in this collegium - British own intelligence is one of the best in the world, information feeds from the American special services are also on a level, and against this background, European “experience sharing symposia” look rather pathetic. Control, freer recruitment of European colleagues is, perhaps, the main goals of MI-6 in this case.
Given that there are official structures in Europe for the interaction of special services, for example, the Intelligence and Situation Center of the European Union (INCTEN), this initiative looks very controversial. On the other hand, it clearly demonstrates to us that most European countries are dissatisfied with the current level of cooperation and coordination in the intelligence field. It seems that the results of the same INCTEN Brussels are not very satisfying.
But this also suggests that the ICE path will clearly not be easy. Already tried, but nothing came of it - so why should it happen now? And we in Russia may not worry for a long time about a new European intelligence.