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To inform or not – that is the question. An EU dilemma

Nov 03, 2022

The importance of establishing a uniform standard for protecting classified information in the Euro-Atlantic space is increasingly recognised. This goes also inside the European Union and not only in its cooperation with NATO. This was an important consideration already when the early cooperative agreements between the EU and NATO were implemented after 9/11.

Nevertheless, given the successive broadening of what is deemed relevant for security - now witnessed during the Russian war against Ukraine – it is not obvious how this principle should be implemented.


Who has a need to know and who should have a right to know in a situation when not least the private sector, including civil society, play an increasingly important role in security policy?


In one context this is vividly illustrated namely when decisions are to be taken on community policies in the EU - where the European Commission is in the lead. The need to securitise policies which deliberately have been kept outside zones of security established in Brussels buildings is becoming ever more pressing.


The war in and around Ukraine is more and more targeting critical infrastructure and flow security which closely involves the private sector and non-habilitated officials inside EU and member State administrations.


Legal regulations trying to codify and strike a balance between the need to know (by protecting information) and the right to know (by making information particularly in crisis situations available) is becoming increasingly difficult to implement.


In a recent speech to EU Ambassadors the High Representative Borrell voiced his frustration about not being informed about things that his officials in many cases probably were not able to communicate to him following information security regulations. That he did so in public says something about the seriousness of finding pragmatic solutions to the problems at hand.


If being brave means having to break security and other administrative rules, then officials are likely to continue to hesitate. Telephone calls can be overheard as already illustrated during the first Ukraine War.