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Friday, April 01, 2011

"But we have a Foreign Office..."

Now the EU has its own Foreign Office, under the stewardship of Cathy Ashton, what's next on the Commission's list for EU institution building?

Well, today we got an advance warning from the Commission's counter-terrorism director, Olivier Luyckx. He has told MEPs that the EU needs its own internal security agency to "mirror" Ashton's External Action Service. It would pull together the EU's existing security agencies Cepol, Cosi, Eurojust, Europol and Frontex under EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerchove.

"There is new room for action at EU level," he said. "This is how I see the change: to set up a system that would mirror the one that is being set up for monitoring external crises [in the EEAS], a one-stop shop for information-sharing."

Austrian counter-terrorism chief Peter Gridling went one step further, saying, "It is time to ask ourselves this question: 'Is it realistic to start thinking about a future EU intelligence service?' I think it's realistic to start thinking about it."

We looked at the EU's growing penchant for data and intelligence sharing back in 2009 and warned that the creation of an EU 'home office' was on the horizon. It's apparently approaching faster than we thought.

The question is, where does the British Government stand on this? It has traditionally been at the forefront of EU counter-terrorism initiatives (e.g. European Arrest Warrant, DNA data sharing), despite the threats to civil liberties, and, so far, this Coalition has been no better. It has continued to opt in to new EU justice and home affairs laws at an alarming rate and looks set to opt in to another, on the sharing of airline passenger data, in the next week or so.

So, keep an eye on this. The UK Government has got form here.

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