European Union trains North African authorities to control the Internet

Under the neighbourhood policy the southern Mediterranean countries are supported with a police programme. Since 2004 measures in „cyberspace“ are on the agenda. Once again, this is the surveillance of social networks, upload platforms and video telephony.

The European Union wants to train North African countries in Internet surveillance. This is what Johannes Hahn, Commissioner responsible for EU neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations, writes in his reply to a question by MEP Sabine Lösing. In an unnamed „partner country in the southern neighbourhood“, training courses on „social media investigations“ are to be held as part of the „Euromed Police IV“ police programme. Further measures are to be taken in the areas of „cyberspace and terrorism“. These include financial investigations and digital forensics.

The German GIZ is also involved

Euromed Police“ has been one of the European Union’s activities under the Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) since 2004. The focus is on the Mediterranean countries Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and the Palestinian Authority. Syria, which is also part of the ENPI, is currently suspended. Most of the programme’s activities are carried out by French or Spanish police authorities. One of the objectives is to set up a „Threat Forum“ at Europol. Stakeholders should exchange there information on security and law enforcement.

In its fourth season from 2016 to 2019, „Euromed Police IV“ has again a budget of around 5 million euros. The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) is one of the junior partners in the programme. All Member States, including Germany, are involved in the approval of projects in principle. However, the specific allocation of funds is the responsibility of the European Commission. The French Civipol Conseil, a project implementation organisation of the French Ministry of the Interior, was commissioned to implement „Euromed Police IV“.

Police program for military gendarmerie

Already in „Euromed Police III“ the participating states were supported with training in Internet control against „radicalisation“, „terrorist acts“, „recruitment“ or „terrorist training“. Among other things, the focus was on YouTube and video telephony services like Skype. The 18 seminars held included modules for monitoring electronic communication, „financing terrorist organisations“ or „collecting, storing, sorting, evaluating“ of investigator-relevant content. Other topics included the detection of counterfeit documents and DNA analyses.

It is possible that the unnamed „partner country“ is Tunisia. According to the Commission, the French Civipol supports the „Tunisian authorities in the fight against terrorism“. The military gendarmerie and the judicial authorities benefit from the measures for „deterrence, investigation and prosecution“. According to the German Federal Government, this also includes „training measures in the area of ‚dealing with cybercrime““. According to the Commission, support will also be given to a „Tunisian Intelligence Fusion Centre“.

Meeting with Google and Facebook

The police programme „Euromed Police“ has a judicial counterpart „EuroMed Justice“. At a joint meeting in Lisbon in April, the European Commission presented a „Handbook on electronic evidence“. Other presentations included the possible implementation of the proposal for a Directive on „Electronic Evidence“ presented by the Commission on 17 April.

The topic is also high on the wish list in „Euromed“. A few weeks earlier, the Algerian police had organised a conference on the publication of cloud data at Internet providers. In the end, an action plan is to be developed to facilitate police demands on the companies. In addition to Europol, representatives of Google and Facebook also took part in the „Euromed“ meeting.

Techniques can be abused

Current training measures in the areas of cyberspace and terrorism are unlikely to meet with much sympathy in North African civil society. The techniques for exploring social networks can also be misused to pursue unwanted opinions and ways of life. The Egyptian government, for example, uses Internet observation to persecute and ill-treat homosexual activists.

In 2013, it emerged that the German government also supported the governments in Tunisia and Egypt in monitoring the Internet. Training courses by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) took place shortly before the so-called „Arab Spring“ uprisings, in which the internet an important role. After protests, the BKA had cancelled a course on Internet observation planned last year.

Image: „Euromed Police“ meeting at AFRIPOL in Algeria (all rights reserved Euromed Police).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.