Europe should consider sharing vast amounts of intelligence and information on its citizens with the US to establish a “Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation” to combat terrorism, according to a high-level confidential report on future security.
The 27 members of the EU should also pool intelligence on terrorism, develop joint video-surveillance and unmanned drone aircraft, start networks of anti-terrorism centres, and boost the role and powers of an intelligence-coordinating body in Brussels, said senior officials.
The 53-page report drafted by the Future Group of interior and justice ministers from six EU member states – Germany, France, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic -argues Europe will need to integrate much of its policing, intelligence-gathering, and policy-making if it is to tackle terrorism, organised crime, and legal and illegal immigration.
The report, seen by the Guardian, was submitted to EU governments last month following 18 months of work. The group, which also includes senior officials from the European Commission, was established by Germany last year and charged with drafting a blueprint for security and justice policy over the next five years.
Baroness Scotland, the UK attorney general, had observer status with the group to assess the implications for Britain, whose legal system, unlike continental Europe, is based on the common law.
The group’s controversial proposals are certain to trigger major disputes, not least its calls for Europe to create an expeditionary corps of armed gendarmerie for paramilitary intervention overseas.
The report said the EU would fail to beat terrorism unless it developed a full partnership with Washington, a process currently pushing ahead in fits and starts.
“The EU should make up its mind with regard to the political objective of achieving a Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation with the United States in the field of freedom, security and justice,” it said.
Such a pact, which should be finalised by 2014 at the latest, would entail the transfer of vast volumes of information on European citizens and travellers to the US authorities. Negotiations have long been under way to agree such a pact, but have been bedevilled by divergences in privacy law and data protection regimes.
The US is already demanding that EU countries sign up for a battery of security measures on transatlantic flights and the supply of personal information on passengers if they are to enjoy visa-free travel to the US. Under one such accord struck in March between Washington and Berlin, the Germans are to make DNA and biometric information on travellers available.
The European Commission and the US homeland security department are also trying to iron out discrepancies in privacy laws to allow the wholesale exchange of data. The aim is to reach a binding international agreement this year or next.
Last month the American Civil Liberties Union wrote to MEPs pressing Brussels to reject US pressure because the US is “a country that, in privacy terms, is all but lawless … US privacy laws are weak. They offer little protection to citizens and virtually none to non-citizens.”
While urging a comprehensive transatlantic electronic pact, the Future Group focuses mainly on boosting police cooperation and integration between EU states, policies which would reinforce the powers of European agencies and institutions bearing acronyms such as Europol, Eurojust, Frontex, and Sitcen and perhaps see new agencies established to deal with security and intelligence operations.
Several member states, not least Britain, will have deep qualms about the proposals, with the British likely to balk at automatic pooling of national intelligence.
Anti-terrorist campaigns can only be effective if “maximum information flow between [EU] member states is guaranteed,” the report said. “Relevant security-related information should be available to all security authorities in the member states.” It said “networks of anti-terrorist centres” was a possible solution.
While cooperation between national police forces in the EU was advancing, the report conceded that the sharing of espionage and intelligence material was a “considerable challenge” as it clashed with the “principle of confidentiality” that is the basis for successful exchanges.
The report calls for a bigger role for “Sitcen” in coordinating intelligence sharing. Sitcen, or the Joint Situation Centre, is a shadowy intelligence body based in Brussels which started as a foreign policy tool supplying analysis on international crises to Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, but which now focuses on counter-terrorism and internal security policy.
· National police forces to cooperate and integrate
· Improve European-level crisis management
· Need to harness the talents of “different actors” in fighting terrorism
· National security services and intelligence agencies need to collaborate much more closely
· New EU internet-based propaganda campaign to defeat radicalisation and terrorist recruitment
· Create “European Gendarmerie Force” for deployment and intervention abroad. Pooling of EU funds for such missions
· Common EU immigration policies. By 2014, EU leaders should make the political decision on whether to enter a “Euro-Atlantic area of freedom, security, and justice” with the Americans