I spent 38 years in the secret intelligence service and the two threats that largely defined my career were from the Soviet Union and allies and since 1990, from international terrorism. My professional preoccupation was the pursuit of other nations and other people's secrets. The purpose of gathering those secrets was for an example to understand the latest weapons developments taking place inside the Soviet military-industrial complex, or to dismantle a terrorist conspiracy before it became lethal. In comparison, migration is a glaringly public issue, with few secrets beyond perhaps the activities of the gangs of people smugglers. It is therefore the impact of migration on Europe that more concerns me, and how, when it reaches levels that none of us has previously experienced, it begins to shape how we think about our region, our place in it, and how it will influence our future. Making informed projections and trying to identify and understand trends is also part of the intelligence professional and what intelligence analysis aims to do. However the context of any discussion here in the UK about migration into and within Europe is now heavily charged with political and social significance, because of the forthcoming referendum on the UK membership of the EU.
We do stand on the threshold of having to make an historical choice and in my view, the timing and circumstances are not propitious because of the migration crisis Europe faces. Briefly, let me describe it. The number of immigrants into Europe over the next five years from the Middle East and Africa could well run into the millions. Once established inside the EU, those new arrivals will have freedom of movement across the 28 member countries. 1.6 million arrived in Europe last year. Many were refugees escaping conflict. But we are also experiencing a mass movement of people from poverty towards relative wealth from their lack of a future towards opportunity. Making the distinction between a refugee and economic migrant can be difficult. In a world connected by the internet and mobile telephony, the have-nots understand graphically what they have not got and what they might have if they move to a rich country. The social and political consequences for Europe and its institutions are far reaching. The geopolitical impact is set to reshape Europe's political landscape as those citizens who fear, rationally or not, that's their interests and cultural identity are threatened assert their influence.
This has already happened in Austria, with the resurgence of the formerly defunct Freedom Party. Other extreme right populist parties will follow, and they are gathering support, especially in Central Europe. The EU's response has been hesitant and irresolute. Complicated by the differing reaction of member states and the extent to which their national interests are affected. To see walls and fences going up across Europe reminds me of the Iron Curtain, which I crossed many times will stop it was always a sinister moment. For the EU however to offer these free access to 75 million Turks, to stem the flow of migrants across the Aegean, seems perverse -- visa. Like storing gasoline next to the fire we are trying to extinguish. Although for the moment the exodus has slowed. The EU allocation of 1.8 billion euros, and I quit, to address the root causes in Africa of a regular migration and displaced persons, makes more sense, but this is not nearly enough money to embrace the vastness of the problem. How do you persuade the millions of people not to set out towards Europe in search of employment and a better life?
A massive European response is probably the only answer, along the lines of the Marshall aid plan that restored the European economies after World War II. Plus a more aggressive operation along the North African coast. As soon as the political circumstances in Libya permits the EU to move its resources on shore. A Europe with its own economic problems, especially the high levels of youth unemployment in southern Europe, would seem incapable of rising to this challenge. Meanwhile, the impact of mass migration is eating away at the willingness of EU states to act together and is rendering the EU impotent in the face of the most serious social and humanitarian problem that it has had to face. Europe's leading politicians, each caught up with their own domestic political problems, shows little common determination to break out of this downward spiral and find a level of migration that does not strike fear into their electorate. Europe's last migration crisis was in 1945-46 and the numbers then were staggering stop inside the defeated and devastated Germany languished 7 million non-Germans.
The solution was to put everything, including massive amounts of Marshall aid, into regenerating the European economies. The EU institution Lee is the descendant of that highly successful initiative. However its main political aim was to ensure that there could never be another major continental war. Today, Europe faces a new migration test more serious than in 1945, because it is global, rather than intra- European. Failing to meet this challenge suggests the EU in present configuration of 28 vastly differing national interests thrown into stark relief by the migration crisis may well have outlived its historical role and the EU's inept response to the Balkan crisis and to the Ukraine's westward move away from Russia's forma imperium is evidence of an alliance of nation states struggling with its geopolitical role. The rise of extreme right-wing movements in many states suggests is that many voters share a sense of disillusionment. The failure to control inward migration is the common denominator that explains their growth. Their rejection of the post-war European dream may not yet be of sufficient strength to break the EU apart, and Europe's conventional parties may be able to hold the line against them, if improved control of migration can be achieved.
However, if a politician like Marine Le Pen of the Front National can command the support of perhaps one in three French voters, this represents a sea change in the continent's politics, and even the European communist parties in the heyday of euro Communism seldom secured more than 20% of the vote. As a former spy master who has spent a good deal of his career in and around Europe, what is my particular take on these worrying events? First, when massive social forces are at work, and mass migration is such a force, a whole government response is required and a high degree of international cooperation. Intelligence and security services are simply contributors to a strong policy-making. In the real world, there are no miraculous James Bond style solutions.
Simply shutting the door on migration is not an option. History tells us human tides are irresistible unless the gravitational pull that causes them is removed. Edward Gibbon elegantly charted Harrow Road, with its civic and administrative sophistication and military prowess could not stop its empire being overrun by the mass movement of Europe's tribes. Second, we should not conflate the problem of migration with the threat of terrorism. High levels of immigration, particularly from the Middle East, coupled with freedom of movement inside the EU make effective border control more difficult. Terrorists can and do exploit these circumstances and we saw recently in their movement between Brussels and Paris and to and from Syria.
With large numbers of people on the move, a few of them will inevitably carry the terrorist virus. However, effective border control is not the most important part of countering terrorism. It does not pick up clean skins, nor those who are switching their identities. Good intelligence, drawing on human and technical sources and the analysis of data flows is the key to effective counterterrorism and a number of the most lethal terrorists are from inside Europe, including the UK. They are already amongst us. Third, for reasons I don't have time to explain, the UK compared to most European partners is good at this sort of intelligence work. It's European and global standing is high. The EU, as opposed to its member states, has no operational counterterrorist capability to speak of. Many European states look to the UK for training.
I remember when Hungary was leaving the Soviet orbit, the head of the Hungarian intelligence service asked me, where are these European committees, and when do I get invited? To his surprise, I explained to him they did not exist and the place for him to start perhaps was in a bilateral exchange with the UK. More than a decade later, hungry is among the most autonomous of the smaller European powers in matters of national security stop they learned quickly. Successive Labour and Conservative governments have been careful not to let EU's UK membership not dilute its own national security. When the EU constitution was under discussion in 2003, the UK was insistent the draft document which was never adopted, did not contain references to national security. The only significant European intrusion into sensitive security areas in the UK have been by the European Court of Human Rights, which has helped with the government handling of some terrorist suspects. I should add this court, though European, is institutionally separate from the EU. T
The argument that we would be less secure if we left the EU is in reality, rather difficult to make. They would in fact be games if we left because the UK would be fully master of its own house. Counter terrorist court nation across Europe would certainly continue and the UK would remain a leader in the field. The idea that the quality of that cooperation depends in any significant way on our EU membership is misleading. The urgency of counter terrorist work, the quality of the EU's expertise, the practical and moral imperatives that drive liaison exchanges and the shared revulsion when terrorist violence is unleashed an innocent citizens is what binds the UK into excellent intelligence and security relations with every individual EU member. Not the fact that the UK is also in the EU. During the Cold War, neither we nor the French, were restrained from working together in the most sensitive areas of intelligence exchange about the Soviet threat, although France was not a member of Nato.
This is a telling comparison. Intelligence and security liaison is highly pragmatic and outside the military sphere is generally speaking, not subject to formal treaty agreements. This brings me back to the main question. Is the EU faced with the problem of mass coordination... Mass migration, able to coordinate an effective response from its member countries? Should the EU state in and continue to struggle for fundamental change or do we conclude that the effort would be wasted and that the EU in its extended form has run its historical course?
For each of us, this is possibly the most important electoral choice we may ever have to make. We should understand also that our choice is going to be strategic for the UK's future. Whether we will each be worse off, whether our national security might be damaged, even whether the economy might falter and sterling be devalued, our subsidiary to the key question, which is whether we have confidence in the EU to manage Europe's future. If Europe cannot act together to persuade a majority of its citizens that it can gain control of its migrant crisis, then the EU will find itself at the mercy of it populist uprising which is already stirring. The stakes are very high. The UK referendum is the first roll of the dice in a bigger geopolitical game. Thank you.