The Director of Belgium’s State Security Service, Alain Winants, spoke out on the supposed use of think tanks as cover for espionage, "Diplomacy and journalism are traditional fronts for espionage," said Winants in a speech to the Euro-Atlantic Association of Belgium, "But we find that foreign intelligence officers also use other fronts. A phenomenon that is increasingly gaining importance, are think tanks." Pointing out the reluctance of some people to sign up to the European Commission’s Register of Interested Parties, he remarked that, "Numerous pressure groups active in Brussels, are not up there in the official records. There are no rules and provided there are no statistics available.  Most think tanks, lobbyists and such institutions refuse to register in Belgium, just to not give up their cover." The speech was reported by Kristof Clerix from Brussels based MO News. The Register has become controversial. Transparency campaigners, ALTER EU, want it to be mandatory, others, like Friends of Europe refuse to sign as they declare themselves not to be lobbyists. That hasn’t stopped FoE from signing the European Parliament’s Lobbyist Register though.
Michael Mann, spokesperson for Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, who has the responsibility for the register said that, "Espionage is not a problem to exaggerate, but it is an issue. We have procedures in place and I’m confident that they are appropriate."
 A year ago, the situation was more alarming, forcing the EC Head of Security to send a memo to all staff, warning them that "Real cases show that the threat of espionage against the Commission is increasing day by day." This memo was rapidly leaked. The commission has just issued a new set of guidelines to staff, entitled "Espionage Against the European Commission." This is being eagerly read to see if the dangers of long legged blonde interns has increased.
The increase of think tanks being associated with espionage is of great interest. Some also get funding from embassies, missions etc, whilst the EU funds a large number of think tanks. It would be ironic if the EU was actually financing intelligence activity against itself! The Tankers also provide a home for ex-MEPs who have enjoyed their time in Brussels and have, "gone native". After the European elections several ex-members were seen strolling around Place Luxembourg, hoping to catch the eye of a prospective employer, is it possible that some of these poor creatures caught the eye of a spook? In the meantime, perhaps the EU Security should take a look at some of the think tanks, and those who are promoting them.