EU delegations' offices bugged in Brussels HQ

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Update 30 April 2003

The General Affairs Council of the European Union agreed the following at its meeting in Luxemburg on 14 April::

"Discovery of phone-tapping devices in the Justus Lipsius building - complaint

The Council approved a decision authorising the Deputy Secretary-General of the Council to lodge a complaint on its behalf against person or persons unknown with the Chief Public Prosecutor at the Brussels Court of Appeal with regard to the discovery of phone-tapping devices in the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels. The complaint will be based on the relevant provisions of the Belgian criminal code, in particular article 314bis."

The BBC and other news agencies report that a routine security inspection on 28 February in the Justus Lipsius building, which is the headquarters of the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments), found bugging devices in the phones of offices used by national delegations. This included offices used by France, Germany, the UK, Spanish, Italian and Austrian officials said.

"The discovery of the telephone tapping systems was first reported on Wednesday by France's Le Figaro newspaper, which blamed the US", said the BBC website.

Investigators from the affected countries were looking into the phone tapping, along with the EU's own security services.

Each EU government has what is known as permanent representation in Brussels, headed by the permanent representative (sometimes known as "ambassadors") who sit on COREPER (Committee of permanent representatives), housed in their own, separate, buildings. Prior to Council or working party meetings staff from the permanent representation together with national Ministers and officials meet in suites of offices allocated to each delegation - here there will be briefings and any private national discussions. The bugging of these offices is a very serious security breach.

As it appears physical bugging devices were discovered this means all conversations in the rooms affected could be monitored (as well as any phone conversation).

After EU ambassadors were briefed on the espionage affair, Swedish envoy Sven-Olaf Petersson told reporters: "They were very sophisticated installations, we are told, which only a few intelligence services are able to install."

He said the devices had been found on 28 February, attached to certain phone lines in the central switchboard. "There are many indications that they were installed with the building (in) 1994-95. It is naturally very serious that someone has installed illegal listening devices in our building," Petersson said (Reuters).

Story from BBC NEWS: EU investigates mystery buggings

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