Belgium confirms probe into China-Malta spy threat

Sallie Anderson

Belgian intelligence has actually verified it had actually examined possible Chinese espionage out of Malta’s EU embassy in Brussels, as 2 MEPs require responses.

“There were Chinese people who were involved in the renovation of the Dar Malta embassy in 2007 and it caught our attention,” Belgium’s homeland security service, the Veiligheid van de Staat (VSSE), informed EUobserver on Monday (18 May).

The VSSE suspicions emerged “without a foreign service having drawn our attention to this fact”, it stated.

” There has actually never ever been any proof that Chinese spy activities have [actually] happened from this structure and we never ever stated that held true,” the VSSEadded


And “it is incorrect that the VSSE officially accused Malta of spying,” it stated.

The remarks followed French paper Le Monde, last Friday, reported on long-held VSSE suspicions that Chinese intelligence had actually set up security equipment in Malta’s EU embassy in Brussels in 2007, when a Chinese company refurbished the structure.

The VSSE had actually been tipped off by British spies, Le Monde stated, mentioning personal files, and Belgium’s security chief had actually handed down issues to the then Belgian foreign minister, Didier Reynders, itadded


Belgium is implied to alert EU organizations’ security services about risks under a bilateral accord.

However the head of the EU foreign service, Josep Borrell, verified last Friday the EU had actually not been informed anything.

” If the Belgians have something to inform us [on the China-Malta threat], they will, however for the time being [that] hasn’t taken place,” Borrell informed press.

And when asked by EUobserver on Monday if Borrell had actually had a chance to raise the matter with Reynders, who is now an EU commissioner, an EU representative declined to respond to.

“Everything related to maintenance and running of a facility belonging to an EU member state is subject to their sovereign decisions and procedures,” the EU representative stated rather, describing Malta.

“We are aware of the threats posed by possible espionage activities by third countries and take all the necessary precautionary measures to protect our institutions and staff,” the representativeadded


One MEP, Dutch liberal Bart Groothuis, painted a less-than-serene image of EU security coordination.

Groothuis, likewise on Friday, had actually selected a commission vice-president, Valdis Dombrovskis, with a concern on the China-Malta threat throughout a videoconference in a European Parliament committee.

And after the MEP’s concern was reported in weekend media, “Dombrovskis’ cabinet telephoned me two times today [Monday] to ask what he [Dombrovskis] had actually stated and where,” Groothuis informed EUobserver.

” They didn’t understand if it was his [Dombrovskis’] problem, or Borrell’s problem, or who must handle it,” Groothuis stated.

On The Other Hand, Dombrovskis’ reply back on Friday had actually been so unclear, that Groothuis and a second Dutch liberal MEP, Malik Azmani, submitted an official parliamentary concern to Borrell on Monday night.

If Malta’s EU embassy had actually been jeopardized, it was a “grave security risk”, not even if it ignored the European Commission HQ, however due to the fact that EU organizations and member states’ “sensitive documents” streamed through Malta’s IT systems there, the MEPs kept in mind in a preamble.


They called for an EU “security review” and a “full enquiry” into who understood what and.

If he concurred that Malta’s decision to let the Chinese remodel its embassy had actually developed “unacceptable security and political risks?”,

They likewise asked Borrell.

” These examples are usually done behind closed doors, which’s fine … however if there was understanding of an espionage threat, I do not see any factor in them [Belgium] not having actually discussed it [to the EU],” Groothuis informed thiswebsite


Can EU trust Malta?

For its part, the Maltese federal government has actually attempted to rubbish Le Monde’s discoveries, stating China had actually simply contributed furnishings to its EU objective.

However Groothuis, for one, was unsure.

“There ought to be pressure now to ask Malta: ‘Can other EU member states and institutions trust your computer networks and physical facilities?’,” he stated.

Malta, recently, has actually courted Russian and chinese financial investment.

A Chinese company, Shanghai Electric Power, for example, purchased a 33 percent stake in Maltese energy provider Enemalta in 2014 – quickly prior to Enemalta ended up being involved in corruption accusations connected to the assassination of Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia in2017


And for some professionals, a hypothesis of China-Malta collusion on EU espionage was not to be dismissed.

“When you see the recent stories coming out of Malta – the murder of a journalist, arms trafficking, and so on – everything is possible,” a Belgian security source stated.

“It’s incredible,” the source added, on Belgian-EU security cooperation.

” Didier Reynders understood about the super-position of the Chinese [in the EU district] and he kept it to himself,” the source stated.

The Chinese EU objective in Brussels and China’s ambassador to Belgium have actually rejected any prohibited activities in the nation in previous remarks to EUobserver.

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