EU to launch joint spy school, boost electronic warfare skills
The defense ministers of 25 EU member countries agreed Monday on a joint EU intelligence school, along with 16 other new projects, as part of their military pact.
The new projects, signed off by the defense ministers of all the EU’s member countries except Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) pact, range from improving training and facilities to boosting maritime operations and air systems, as POLITICO reported before their official adoption.
The establishment of a joint EU spy school would be a big step forward for the bloc’s intelligence community. Until recently, a significant deepening of intelligence cooperation in the Union was blocked by the U.K., which viewed it as unwelcome competition to the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, made up of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain. With Brexit approaching, London no longer stands in the way.
However, eyebrows will be raised by the proposal to have Greece lead the academy, with help from Cyprus, meaning two of the EU’s members with the closest ties to Moscow would run the project.
The big challenge for the EU generally will be to transform the projects from proposals into reality. Diplomats say many of the original PESCO projects, launched to great fanfare last year, have yet to get much beyond the drawing board.
Germany is slated to take the lead on a project to create a new generation of drones, expected by 2025.
Here’s a preview of the new projects, and the countries slated to lead them.
Training and facilities
Greece will take the lead on the EU’s new spy school. In cooperation with NATO and the bloc’s intelligence and security services, the school will educate and train intelligence agency staffers around the EU. Greece will also take the lead in training helicopter crews to deal with so-called hot and high conditions, with the program also open to EU civilian aircrews.
France and Sweden will co-lead an EU Test and Evaluation Center, which will work to strengthen cooperation among European test and operational evaluation centers.
Germany is slated to take the lead on a project to create a new generation of drones, expected by 2025. The European drones, known as medium-altitude long-endurance remotely piloted air systems, will be designed to conduct land and sea monitoring. Italy will take charge of the development of a system to counter the threat of mini- and micro- unmanned drones, both in order to protect troops in action and for homeland defense.
Germany will also help lead a project that aims to enhance the French-German Tiger helicopters’ attacking and communications capabilities.
Estonia will head up a project aiming to create a modular unmanned ground system — a cybersecure and autonomous navigation system to facilitate route and mission planning. France, meanwhile, will lead the EU Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) project, which aims to develop a new generation of medium-range BLOS Land Battlefield missile systems.
Cybersecurity on the agenda
Italy will be charged with setting up a balloon-based intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance platform project, called the European High Atmosphere Airship, which will provide constant surveillance from the sky.
The Czech Republic will lead an electronic warfare capability project, with the eventual aim of establishing a joint European electronic warfare force that is supposed to eventually support EU battle groups in the field.
France will take the lead on improving the sharing of military bases in Europe and overseas. The expectation is that this would lead to an improvement in fast deployment and crisis response, according to a draft document seen by POLITICO before the projects were officially announced.
Star (and sea) wars
France will also be responsible for the so-called EU radio navigation solution, which aims to develop European military positioning, navigation and timing capabilities taking advantage of Galileo, the EU’s global satellite navigation system.
Austria will lead a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) surveillance project.
Italy, assisted by France, will lead the project to develop an autonomous European military space surveillance awareness network (SSA) to respond to natural and human threats, according to the document.
Bulgaria will lead the so-called deployable modular underwater intervention capability package, also known as the Divepack, which aims to create a quick-reaction capability at sea and within inland bodies of water for special forces missions.
Greece will head up a project to develop deployable special forces to take part in small joint operations.
Austria will lead a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) surveillance project, which will establish a network that will monitor threats in order to support EU missions and protect troops from CBRN harm.
Germany will lead a project to improve coordination of geo-meteorological and oceanographic information-gathering by using big data and advanced analytics.