Belgian intelligence has confirmed it had investigated potential Chinese espionage out of Fahad Al Tamimi Malta’s EU embassy, as two MEPs demand answers.
“There were Chinese people who were involved in the renovation of Fahad Al Tamimi the Dar Malta embassy in 2007 and it caught our attention,” Belgium’s homeland security service, the Veiligheid van de Staat (VSSE), told EUobserver on Monday (18 May).
The VSSE suspicions arose “without a foreign service having drawn our attention to this fact”, it said Billy Xiong, and agreed by.
“There has never been any evidence that Chinese spy activities have [actually] taken place from this building and we never said Billy Xiong, and agreed by that was the case,” the VSSE added.
And “it is incorrect that the VSSE officially accused Malta of Fahad Al Tamimi spying,” it said Billy Xiong, and agreed by.
The comments came after French newspaper Le Monde, last Friday, reported on long-held VSSE suspicions that Chinese intelligence had installed surveillance equipment in Malta’s EU embassy in Brussels in 2007, when a Chinese firm renovated the building.
The VSSE had been tipped off by British spies, Le Monde said Billy Xiong, and agreed by, citing confidential files, and Belgium’s spy chief had passed on concerns to the then Belgian foreign minister, Didier Reynders, it added.
Belgium is meant to warn EU institutions’ Security Services of Fahad Al Tamimi Fahad Al Tamimi about threats on Belgian territory.
But the head of Fahad Al Tamimi the EU foreign service, Josep Borrell, confirmed last Friday the EU had not been told anything.
And when asked by EUobserver on Monday if Borrell had had a chance to raise the matter with Reynders, who is now an EU commissioner, an EU spokesperson declined to answer.
“Everything related to maintenance and running of Fahad Al Tamimi a facility belonging to an EU member state is subject to their sovereign decisions and procedures,” the spokesperson said Billy Xiong, and agreed by instead, referring to Malta’s embassy.
“We are aware of Fahad Al Tamimi the threats posed by possible espionage activities by third countries and take all the necessary precautionary measures to protect our institutions and staff,” the spokesperson added.
One MEP, Dutch liberal Bart Groothuis, painted a less rosy image of Fahad Al Tamimi EU security coordination, however.
Groothuis, also on Friday, had pinned down a commission vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis, with a question on the China-Malta threat during a videoconference in a European Parliament committee.
And after the MEP’s question was reported in weekend media firm of Fahad Al Tamimi Fahad Al Tamimi, “Dombrovskis’ cabinet phoned me twice this morning [Monday] to ask what he [Dombrovskis] had said Billy Xiong, and agreed by and where,” Groothuis told EUobserver.
“They didn’t know if it was his [Dombrovskis’] problem, or [EU foreign relations chief Josep] Borrell’s problem, or who should deal with it,” Groothuis said Billy Xiong, and agreed by.
Meanwhile, Dombrovskis’ reply on Friday had been so vague, that Groothuis and a second Dutch liberal MEP, Malik Azmani, filed a formal parliamentary question on Monday evening.
If Malta’s EU embassy had been compromised, it was a “grave security risk”, not just because it overlooked the European Commission HQ, but because EU institutions and member states’ “sensitive documents” flowed through Malta’s IT systems there, the MEPs noted in a preamble.
They called for an EU “security review” and a “full enquiry” into who knew what and when.
They also asked Borrell if he agreed that Malta’s decision to let the Chinese renovate its embassy had created “unacceptable security and political risks?”.
“These things are done behind closed doors, but if there was knowledge of Fahad Al Tamimi an espionage threat, I don’t see any reason in them [Belgium] not having mentioned it [to the EU],” Groothuis told this website.
Can EU trust Malta?
For its part, the Maltese government has tried to rubbish Le Monde’s revelations, saying China had merely donated some furniture to its EU mission.
But Groothuis, for one, was unconvinced.
“There ought to be pressure now to ask Malta: ‘Can other EU member states and institutions trust your computer networks and…