Intelligence agencies in Europe are facing heavy criticism that one of the November 13 Paris attackers, Salah Abdeslam, from Belgium, was known to the law enforcement services yet managed to buy detonators in France using his driving license as proof of identity.
It's time to tear down the walls between our police and intelligence services to fight borderless #terrorisme in Europe— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) December 16, 2015
The admission comes amid severe criticism of European intelligence agencies for failing to prevent the attacks, in which 130 died and hundreds were injured, despite having most of the attackers on the radar. The ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud was able to return from Syria several times via the migrant route of Greece without being detected.
There was further criticism of the lack of border controls within Europe — under the Schengen Agreement — which allowed Abaaoud and his fellow attackers to travel several times between France and Belgium in the run-up to the attacks and — in Abdeslam's case — following the attacks.
However, Verhofstadt — speaking Wednesday in the European Parliament — criticized the weakness of the EU response to the intelligence failures. Brandishing a copy of the agenda for the EU leaders' meeting on December 17 and 18, he said the counterterrorism part of the agenda was thin.
"The conclusions are completely weak. The only thing about the fight against terrorism [on the agenda] is 'enhanced information-sharing' and the two pages of all the stuff on enhanced information."
"We don't need 'enhanced information-sharing', we need mandatory information-sharing as fast as possible," Verhofstadt said to a loud round of applause from EU lawmakers.
"That is my plea to the European Commission [whose President Jean-Claude Juncker was in the parliament chamber]: is it not possible for you to come forward with what I call a horizontal mandatory sharing of information. You could do it by regulation for example.
"It should apply to all databases: the Europol database, the Frontex database and the 28 new PNR [Passenger Name Record] database. Why is it not possible that in one regulation you say: from now on horizontal, mandatory sharing of information between all these databases in Europe," Verhofstadt said.
His comments follow calls by the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who called for a European version of the CIA. "If intelligence services were able to share information without fail there might never be another attack," he said.