Universities in EU on alert to China spy threat

Sallie Anderson

Universities in the EU ought to designate spy- catchers to stop China and others taking secrets, the European Commission has actually recommended.

The unique “individual” or “group” would communicate with national intelligence services “interested in dealing with issues of foreign infringement”, the commission stated.

They would recognize “areas of vulnerability” in their institutes, such as gain access to to computer systems or laboratories.

And they would offer security instructions on school, for example to”PhD fellows and/or researchers traveling to foreign countries that might not share our scientific values”


That was one concept in a five-page “concept note” sent out by the commission to national authorities and universities in Europe in February, now seen by EUobserver.

“The possible development of guidelines at EU level is currently being discussed at a preliminary stage,” an EU source stated.

“No decision has been taken on the final format and legal basis of a possible document,” the sourceadded


The effort came in response to “foreign interference” of a “coercive, hidden, misleading, [and] damaging” nature in EU research study institutes, the source kept in mind.

“Such activities have been observed in the EU and the guidelines could be a tool to partly tackle foreign interference,” the source informed thiswebsite


The standards were indicated to be “state-agnostic”, the principle note stated.

The agnosticism comes amidst diplomatic level of sensitivity, with China tending to respond terribly to EU criticism, such as its current allegations that Beijing was spreading out coronavirus disinformation.

However the EU note pointed out China 4 times on its front page and was substantiated of a conference on China in December in which European academics raised the alarm.

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Belgium, in 2015, likewise chose to cut ties with the Confucius Institute, a Chinese spin-off, after Belgium’s homeland security service stated its head, Xinning Song, personality non grata.

And the EU commission’s spotlight on commercial espionage at research study institutes comes amidst broader Sino-European skepticism.

EU states watch out for setting up Chinese 5G information networks. They are disrupted by China’s financial investment in tactical markets. Chinese hackers have actually been targeting Europe. And Chinese companies have actually been implicated of taking Western intellectual property on a large scale for many years on end.

In this environment, European universities “are remarkably open in their approach to international collaboration,” the commission principle note mentioned.

And their openness has “facilitated foreign interference”, it added.

Other concepts in Brussels’ paper consisted of finalizing agreements with overseas entities on “what will happen to the data” they produce in joint tasks.

“Might the research violate ethical standards or national or European export controls” on “dual-use” technology, EU universities ought to ask themselves, the commission recommended.

Dual- usage technology is products which can be utilized in civilian or military applications.

“Might the structure of the financing create issues or dependencies?,” EU universities must likewise ask.

The principle paper highlighted that international scholastic cooperation has actually produced “world-class” success stories.

“The purpose of such guidelines is not to curb international collaboration but to encourage a culture in which risks of international collaboration are managed and benefits realised,” the EU source stated.

The concepts in the principle note, in addition to the replies the commission receives from member states and from academics, were “without prejudice to the final position of the European Commission on the matters described within,” the source added.

The Chinese EU objective declined to comment.

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