Greece and Cyprus are leading a new project to build a joint EU intelligence school (JEUS). The school will be led by Greece and based in Cyprus, with the assistance of other NATO member states and European intelligence services. It will train intelligence agency staff from around the EU, in cooperation with national security agencies and NATO, as well as conduct work on developing new hardware, like drones and electronic warfare technology.
On November 19, EU foreign and defence ministers agreed to the Greek-Cypriot proposal under the PESCO framework. The Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) was launched last year, and is part of the EU’s security and defence policy, which aims for structural integration across member states. 25 out of 28 EU members participate — Denmark, Malta, and the UK do not.
The UK’s imminent departure from the EU in March 2019 is in fact an impetus for the intelligence school. The UK has traditionally been resistant to deeper EU intelligence cooperation, viewing it as redundant and competitive to the Five Eyes intelligence alliance between the UK, US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. With Brexit approaching, this no longer remains a roadblock to the Greek-Cypriot school.
Still, concerns remain. The school might not sit well with Turkey, which is currently in dispute with Greece and Cyprus over energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Some eyebrows have been raised because Greece and Cyprus are two of the more Russia-friendly EU countries, historically an intelligence threat to some EU nations. And, most importantly, there are questions about whether the project proposal will become a reality — PESCO ‘launched’ many projects last year, but a number of these have yet to come to fruition.
Despite this adversity, Greece and Cyprus are staying strong in their plans to build the school. In fact, they are taking on additional projects to strengthen EU intelligence cooperation and defence. Greece is training helicopter crews to deal with “hot and high conditions” – with EU civilian aircrews being allowed to participate. Greece is also heading a project — again, in coordination with Cyprus — to develop deployable special forces, to take part in small joint operations. And it’s working with Italy, Spain, Croatia, and Austria on a deployable military disaster relief capability package for emergency situations, including natural disasters and pandemics.
Cyprus is working with France and Belgium on building a new generation EU ‘Beyond Line Of Sight’ Land Battlefield missile system, to conduct ground-to-ground and air-to-ground operations, and to provide integrated and autonomous target designation capabilities.
Other Southern EU countries are taking on their fair share of assignments under PESCO’s latest project scheme. Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic are leading development of a new military drone by 2025.
Italy will set up a balloon-based intelligence surveillance reconnaissance platform, called the European High Atmosphere Airship, to provide constant surveillance from the sky. Italy, along with France, will also lead the project to develop an autonomous European military space surveillance awareness network to carry out threat response.
France is going to be at the helm of improving the sharing of military bases in Europe and overseas — working on seamless coordination and fast deployment. France will also lead the EU radio navigation solution, which aims to build up European military positioning, navigation, and timing capabilities.
France, Spain, and a whole host of other EU countries are working together to create an integrated unmanned ground system. France and Spain are collaborating with Germany to build upgraded European attack helicopters. France, Greece, and Bulgaria are developing a deployable modular underwater intervention capability package, for defensive underwater operations.
All of these projects — which are added to the initial list of 17 PESCO projects created last year, are more than welcome in the member states participating, not only for defensive reasons. The hardware and software projects are sure to spur technical innovation in the countries involved, and contribute substantially to national economies. Collaboration between more developed economies (vis-a-vis military equipment) and less developed economies will enhance growth and create an economic boon, while ensuring continent-wide security.
The Southern EU countries, with their geographical positioning across from war-torn areas in the Middle East and North Africa, are vital to securing the continent — and they have the technical know-how and leadership to step up to the plate, as Greece and Cyprus are doing with the new joint EU intelligence school.