On the European Union, Spies and National Prerogatives

I left the Centre d’etudes europeennes of Sciences Po in June 2011. The Centre d’etudes europeennes is a centre of research that deals with EU institutions and their functioning. It is quite a multicultural environment with indefinite political and strategic orientations, like the European Union (EU). I arrived there by chance, as a postdoc fellow. The members of the centre believed I worked on social policies and not on democratization. They thought I was, to some extent, linked to the Eastern side of Europe. I am quite strongly placed on the US side of the Atlantic, instead, especially for  foreign policy related issues.

The EU, for those of you who don’t know it, is made of 28 countries (maybe more countries in the future). I lost the count with the latest enlargement. Most of the New EU Member States are former postcommunist countries. Institutional legacies remain, but national interests between the several member states differ. These interests, however, do not always correspond to EU or other national interests. And this is probably more dangerous, as the EU foreign policy priorities are still indefinite, whilst there are clearer NATO geopolitical objectives, especially with regard to foreign and security policies.

I wrote an article on the Establishment of the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 2011. Later, I decided to visit an ex EU Commissar for completing a still ongoing article on the establishment of the European Banking Union. The name of the ex EU Commissar was Riccardo Perissich. I arrived to this name by chance. One day, I was strangely invited by a studio of lawyers that deals with privatizations (this is a topic I worked on some time ago) to the presentation of one of his book. I discharged the invitation, but kept the name of the ex Commissar in mind.

I bought and read the book instead: ‘Le Regole del Gioco’ (The Rules of the Game). This book deals with spies and their rules. They have no rules, this is the key conclusion. Spies in the EU, one might argue. I assume that connections with other secret services exist and persist. Institutional legacies and legacies of the past, one might argue. The author claims Brussels is full of these individuals, hidden in all possible offices.

Riccardo Perissich worked for several decades in a Director General for Internal Market and Industrial Affairs. This is quite a sensitive office with lots of officials working on very sensitive economic and political issues. He certainlly knew about those events I wrote in my previous article better than others. I decided to take an appointment and to talk to him at some point. I did it a couple of years later. Before, however, I conducted a long research on him, as he is a very interesting and, as I later discovered, intelligent individual.

As said, Riccardo Perissich is an ex EU Commissar, but he is much more than this. He is also a businessman. He was involved in an Italian scandal that had to do with the creation of false dossiers, illegal political and economic spying as well as different blackmailing activities in which  members of the Italian secret services and of the Telecom public security department were involved (Article 1.; Article 2.). He passed a parliamentary hearing on the case (Article 3.). From a quick Google search, I also discovered that Perissich was also in the Conseil d’Administration of a boat shipment company. If this is not enough, he is also a member of the Council for the United States and Italy ) and of several other research institutes among which Notre Europe . Notre Europe is the institute founded by Jacques Delors, one of the founding fathers of the Europeqn Union. I knew about the existence of Notre Europe because of a previous collaboration for a workshop on solidarity in Europe. The director of the Centre d’etudes europeennes, Renaud Dehousse, also worked there.

Perissich has written two books on spies (the other book is ‘Il Seminatore‘). I decided, however, to interview him on another book he wrote more focused on the establishment of the European Union. L’Unione Europea: Una Storia Non Ufficiale (The European Union: An Unofficial Story) is an excellent book, full of details and insights on the establishment and functioning of the European Union as a new political and economic entity. It is about its internal battles and the main actors involved. A must read book. Former Italian President Napolitano also wrote a forward to this volume. Presumably, they know each other, I assumed.

I met Riccardo Perissich (or someone that resembled him) at his office in Rome. He was so kind to grant me an interview for my still ongoing article on European Banking Union. I questioned him about his past in the EU. As mentioned, the Directorate General for Internal Market and Industrial Affairs was a quite sensitive Directorate General (DG). The Directorate, now renamed to include the New Member States, dealt at the time with all it had to do with the establishment of the EU: its single Market, Single currency, etc. More recently, it would deal with the establishment of the European Energy Union and the reconfiguration of the European strategic geopolitical assets. Wars explode around the world for much less and the EU has an ambigous place in this new economic and geostrategic battle: inbetween NATO, Russia and the Middle East. Someone told me once: ‘It’s like being in a fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holifield but without ear muffs and with an attitude that only in the best bordels in Amsterdam or Berlin can be found’.

Perissich explained to me more things that I would have ever wished. A real gentleman! Probably not by chance. Close to Jacques Delors, his former boss was  a British gentleman named Lord Cockfield (please pronounced it ‘Coo-field’, otherwise your name might be mispelled later on for retaliation by the British Mi5 and Mi6).

Cockfield was a high level British Civil Servant working in the finance statistical department. As I read from Perissich’s book, Cockfield was sent by Margareth Thatcher to make sure that EU institutions and their officials did not move too much toward a German style social market economy. After his death, he was buried with his wife in a small British island – the Island of Man -. Assonance of names exhuberates here. According to Wikipedia, ‘The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann‘.

The interview went smooth. Perissich wanted to talk about his baby: The Single Market.

To be continued……

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