12 June 2019

Emmanuel Macron sets up the European Intelligence College

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Image source: Mediafax

Emmanuel Macron has recently unveiled, in Paris, the European Intelligence College. In French president’s vision, this new institution will be that entity to elaborate the common strategic culture, however, there will be no operational and buildup activities in the field. There will be no EU structure, it will have no prerogatives to overlap with those of the already existent organizations and it  will not affect the independency of the national intelligence structures. Across this “system”, according to one of the terms used by project’s founder, the intelligence services of different states, members or not of the European Union, will be able to act so that, by building a European culture for their field, to anticipate a crisis and create common coherent answers for them.

30 European states, 66 intelligence services

A remarkable international presence, composed of representatives of the foreign, domestic and military intelligence structures, has answered Tuesday, 5th of March, to President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative, who, following the catchphrase A Europe that protects, assumed in September 2017, in Sorbonne, has inaugurated the European Intelligence College. 

18 months ago, the French president was aiming at recreating Europe, relaunching the European construction and was offering, at that time, 5 main directions to follow for a sovereign, united and democratic Europe.

Convinced that the base of a political community is security, Macron was saying that, given US’s gradual and inevitable disengagement from Europe and due to a long-term terrorist threat, Europe should realize its fragilities and the necessity to act promptly and commonly.

Across the programmatic speech delivered in Sorbonne, he has focused on the shortcomings of a defence community: the capacity to firmly collaborate as consequence of a lack of common strategic culture. The solution: creating an autonomous capacity in Europe, complementary to NATO, with a common doctrine and budget, but also… a common strategic culture. A common intervention initiative. Then, this common culture should be extended with the creation of a European Intelligence Academy to consolidate the connections between countries through buildup and exchanges.

The European intervention initiative was launched in June and, in November 2018, it was created the functioning plan of this project coordinated by France, whereat have joined Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Finland as well. It is a project which does not compete with NATO, but, on the contrary, it should contribute to improving interoperability between the participant countries, members of not of the European Union.

Now, at the beginning of March, in Paris, along with the representatives of the intelligence structures, Macron has reiterated the European intervention initiative idea, stating that it had a single objective: to build a common strategic culture to anticipate crisis, to prepare the counterattack and the common intervention. The next step: creating a system, called in Sorbonne, academy, wherein services of different states could communicate and could establish a European intelligence culture.

In order to not depend on US, China or Russia’s intelligence in the future, it is necessary, says Macron, a positive combination of national sovereignty and European sovereignty, as the intelligence college is neither an operational exchange place, nor a buildup one, and will not even replace the current structures or be an EU community entity.

Why Macron thinks we need a common strategic culture

What is, and what this common strategic culture is not, we cannot know, at least for now, other than what we can speculate starting from French president’s speech from 5th of March.

Therefore, this common strategic culture is the result of a collaboration surplus. Why more collaboration? Because this is how president Macron thinks things should be working in the new created… forum, a supplementary collaboration to the already existent one: bilateral collaboration between states and intelligence services, intergovernmental cooperation across the clubs (Berna, TREVI, Vienna), integrated European authorities cooperation. The common intelligence culture would make the current collaborations more effective.

Secondly, the common strategic culture will be the provider of a… common grammar, however, without generating practices, know-how’s of the national organizations standardization. Each state has intelligence analysis tools, but different data bases, different standards. It is missing the feedback and the intelligence exchange with the policy makers, as consequence of a lack of trust between states and services. Things should be this way, because the discretion culture is part of intelligence people’s DNA. The European intelligence college would work this out.

Whatever common strategic culture would mean, it will not generate the homogenization of national practices, diversity being a chance to face this unsafe world and its protean threats. However, it will not determine the development of mutual trust and understanding. And college’s success will be ensured…in diversity.

Thirdly, a common culture will be created by respecting the principle sharing and openness, through meetings wherein to consolidate relations and make experiences, risk analysis and objectives exchange, but maintaining independency, by being opened towards the civil society, because the culture of discretion does not have to be a concealment culture, and intelligence people must communicate with university professors, scientists, experts, with everyone who is contributing to making intelligence studies.

Crossing borders and the jump towards cultural intelligence

Intelligence services are also talking about actions across (intelligence) communities and common strategic culture, about crossing over cultural borders, finally, about going beyond what’s particular, individual and belongs to a structure, organization, nation and getting some more acknowledgement for a common good and an effective cooperation.

In the US, the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command Culture Center (TRADOC), part of the Intelligence Center from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, is promoting, since 2006, following the catchphrase culture matters, the development of cultural abilities, trans-cultural competences. In one of this organization’s meetings, from 2010, general David Hog (former US representative in the NATO Military Committee) was proposing the army to think about culture as of an… armament system, referring to militaries’ use of a national culture, in places the American forces are deployed, as the use of such information together with conventional methods is used to combat the enemy. Two civil phycologists, Allison Abbe and Stanley Halpin, went further, saying that the simple update with terms from different cultures is not enough, being necessary some trans-cultural competences to include cultural information, elements about emotional reactions and affectivity, as well as abilities.

At the end of last year, MI6 chief, Alex Younder, in a speech held at the St. Andrew University from Scotland, he was talking about creating human relations as a bridge over cultural and linguistic borders in the most challenging environments. In order to face the hybrid threats, a fourth espionage generation needs to increase partnerships, to lead undercover operations in the digital world, to reveal which are the costs of an activity which damages the enemy and to innovate in order to make sure technology will help him and not the enemies.

Therefore, it is necessary to gather specialized services and citizens, to have an integrated intelligence community, as well as to combine abilities and expertise, because it is no longer enough to know what the enemy is doing, but to be able to make the necessary steps to change its behavior.

Special services and the army are not the only ones to get to the conclusion that it is really important for them to be effective in different cultural circumstances. In the businesses environment it is already known that the most important thing is cultural intelligence, a concept launched in 2003 by Christopher Early and Soon Ang, which involves cultural expertise, intercultural abilities and what we call today cultural metacognition, which is being aware of the cultural context wherein they are working.


As for the project initiated by Emmanuel Macron: nothing new. At least the idea is not new. However it will be interesting its materialization, if there will be a materialization, because the French president does not give any details about how such a cooperation will be possible, besides the existent collaborations between different states’ secrete services under many formulas, or how a cooperation will be possible with a content which is superior to the existent ones.

It will be interesting to see how the European intelligence culture will be created by combining experiences, without operational things and with maintaining the independency of those participating at the project, of national sovereignty.

Simple, would Emmanuel Macron say: through mutual trust and understanding.

We will find out. Or not. Although we should, because according to Elysee’s leader, the culture of discretion should not be a concealment culture, and us, the European citizens, given what the French project is promising us, we must be …aware.

Translated by Andreea Soare