After EU recommendation: Frontex drone allowed to fly in civilian airspace in Greece

Two Israeli arms companies are offering their long-range drones in Europe for border surveillance. In addition to the military in Switzerland, the Greek coast guard is also carrying out corresponding missions.

For more than a year, the EU border agency Frontex has stationed a large drone at Valletta Airport in Malta to monitor the central Mediterranean. The unmanned aerial vehicle of Heron 1 type with a wingspan of almost 17 metres comes from the manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries. In the summer, another such drone from Israel followed for flights from the island of Crete. The Greek coast guard uses it to observe the Ionian Sea, which stretches between the Peloponnese and Italy, as part of Frontex missions.

Until now, Frontex drones were only allowed to take off and land in reserved or restricted airspace. Now, the Greek Civil Aviation Authority has granted permission for the Heron 1 to operate in general Greek airspace. It is the first permit of its kind for an Israeli long-range drone in Europe. This brings to a positive end a test phase of around ten years for the drone industry: corresponding trials with a Heron 1 were already carried out in Spanish civil airspace in 2012. „After EU recommendation: Frontex drone allowed to fly in civilian airspace in Greece“ weiterlesen

European Court of Justice: Controls at the Schengen borders may not be extended arbitrarily

Some EU members still control their internal borders excessively. However, exceeding the time limit of six months is incompatible with the Schengen Borders Code. Governments and the EU Commission must now react.

The lifting of internal border controls is often praised as the greatest achievement of the European Union. However, especially for migration control, many countries have made use of the possibility of temporary reintroduction and have extended this regulation, sometimes dozens of times. This is contrary to EU law, ruled the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) in Luxembourg last week.

The case was brought by the Austrian citizen N.W., who refused to show his passport at a checkpoint at the Slovenian border in Austria and was ordered to pay a €36 fine for this according to a court ruling. In a second case, W. challenged the judgement. The Regional Administrative Court of Styria therefore referred the matter to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling. Now the courts in Austria have to deal with it again. „European Court of Justice: Controls at the Schengen borders may not be extended arbitrarily“ weiterlesen

New Western Balkans hub for Europol and Frontex

Although the EU agencies can now cooperate more closely with selected third countries, there have hardly been any formats for the political and strategic agreement of border police measures outside the Schengen area. Austria has now created facts for South Eastern Europe.

After a two-day „Return Conference“, Austria’s Ministry of the Interior announced on Tuesday this week further measures of the „Joint Coordination Platform“ (JCP) „against illegal migration“. The network, which is only one year old, is to conclude „flexible return partnerships“ with Western Balkan states. Behind the term are deportations of people whose request for protection in the EU has been rejected or who decide to return „voluntarily“ for this reason.

At the invitation of the Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner (ÖVP), the governments of 22 countries met in the Vienna Hofburg to discuss the situation on the Eastern Mediterranean route and the so-called Balkan route. Among the participants were, besides the Western Balkan third countries, numerous EU members and Switzerland as the only Schengen state. The Union was represented by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, the border agency Frontex, the new Asylum Agency and the External Action Service. „New Western Balkans hub for Europol and Frontex“ weiterlesen

Coordination by Europol: Special Intervention Units train with drone carrying explosives and robot dog

Since this year, the ATLAS network has had a Support Office at Europol, with which the police agency coordinates cross-border operations of units from Schengen states. Most of the money from the coming budget will again go to police forces from Germany.

The European Union is further expanding its association of special police units.The so-called ATLAS network, in which 38 Special Intervention Units (SIUs) from the Schengen states coordinate, is working with Europol to build up new capabilities. This is stated in a work programme for 2023 published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. According to this, Great Britain will also participate in the cooperation after Brexit.

The ATLAS network, founded after the attacks of 11 September 2001, has been part of the structures of the European Union since 2008 and is managed as one of the 18 expert groups of the Council Working Group on Law Enforcement. The EU wants to use it to prepare for major police situations that require support from other member states. This concerns operations in the event of terrorist attacks, serious and organised crime or other „crisis situations“. „Coordination by Europol: Special Intervention Units train with drone carrying explosives and robot dog“ weiterlesen

Missiles and sensors: German technology for the Turkish drone war

Turkey’s best-selling armed drone is equipped with cameras from German company Hensoldt, a spokesperson confirms. The device could guide missiles developed with German help to a target. The government in Berlin also has a stake in the defence company. Turkey uses the drones for attacks that violate international law.

For almost two decades, companies from the USA and Israel were the undisputed market leaders for armed drones, but now China and Turkey can count more and more exports in their favour. The Turkish „Bayraktar TB2“, which has been used by the government in Ankara since 2016 in the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi parts of Kurdistan in violation of international law, is particularly attracting attention. In the four-month Operation Olive Branch in Kurdish Rojava alone, the „TB2“ is said to have scored 449 direct hits and enabled fighter planes or helicopters in 680 occasions to do so.

The drone with a payload of 65 kilograms is manufactured by Baykar; its namesake and founder is Selçuk Bayraktar, who is now also the son-in-law of the Turkish president. The „TB2“ has also flown attacks on enemy troops for the Tripoli government in Libya and on behalf of Azerbaijan; it may even have been decisive in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. After Qatar, Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkmenistan, Baykar is to sell the drone as the first NATO country to Poland, interest is also reportedly coming from Lithuania. „Missiles and sensors: German technology for the Turkish drone war“ weiterlesen

Frontex pays another €84 million for aerial surveillance

The border agency spends one-sixth of its budget on flights at the EU’s external borders. With the service, the Frontex director makes himself independent of the governments of the member states. A contract for helicopter operations does not materialise for the time being. In the meantime, however, Libya has ordered helicopters from Airbus.

Frontex has awarded two new contracts for aerial maritime surveillance. These are two of the original four tenders for medium-range and long-range flights. According to the European procurement portal, the contracts worth €53.6 million and €30.9 million were awarded to five charter companies from the Netherlands, the UK and Austria. All beneficiaries had previously provided flight services for Frontex. Several companies also fly for coastguards in other European countries, such as the Netherlands and the UK.

Frontex currently spends one-sixth of its budget this year on its „Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS). The EU border agency began setting it up in 2013. Initially, it was a pilot project with the British company Diamond Executive Aviation (DEA), which was followed by service contracts with a total of nine companies from 2017. It was based on the renewed Frontex Regulation of 2016, according to which the agency can procure, lease or rent its own equipment. This makes Frontex independent of the Member States, from which the agency usually has to request personnel and equipment for “ Joint Operations“. „Frontex pays another €84 million for aerial surveillance“ weiterlesen

Sea rescue in the Aegean: Greek secret service persecutes human rights observers

The government in Athens is targeting organisations and individuals who observe and document human rights violations. An „information management“ agency set up with EU funding is involved in the investigation.

Once again, Greek authorities are striking a blow against European human rights organisations. A total of ten people from different countries are alleged to have facilitated the „illegal entry of foreigners“ in the Aegean Sea since June 2020. This was announced by the police at a press conference last Monday. Those involved are also accused of espionage as well as „impeding investigations“. Some of them are also said to have violated immigration law. However, no arrests or searches have been made so far.

The investigations are targeting members of four different organisations working on the islands of Chios, Samos and Lesvos to monitor human rights, as well as six other persons. According to the pro-government newspaper „Kathimerini“, the Norwegian organisation Aegean Boat Report is among those affected. „Sea rescue in the Aegean: Greek secret service persecutes human rights observers“ weiterlesen

Strategic Compass: Secret services help determine EU’s military course

Member states‘ foreign and defence ministries are today discussing future European Union military capabilities, including how to respond to „cyber threats“. The fodder for this „Strategic Dialogue“ comes from the domestic and foreign intelligence services. MEPs are not allowed to see any of the top-secret documents.

The EU member states are working on new guidelines for the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). These are to be summarised in a „Strategic Compass“, on the basis of which concrete measures and operations will then be decided. In this way, the governments are further expanding the initially rather defensive „EU Global Strategy“.

The Global Strategy adopted in 2016 envisages that the European Union will increase its arms expenditure and the number of its military missions. With the legally controversial Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the proposals were implemented in a relatively short time. PESCO defines concrete measures for research and development of military systems, including „cyber defence and response“, „reconnaissance and space“ and drones at sea, on land and in the air. „Strategic Compass: Secret services help determine EU’s military course“ weiterlesen

Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe

The agencies EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services since 2016. The Mediterranean in particular is becoming a testing track for further projects.

According to the study „Eurodrones Inc.“ presented by Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer for Statewatch seven years ago, the European Commission had already spent over €315 million at that time to investigate the use of drones for border surveillance. These efforts focused on capabilities of member states and their national contact centres for EUROSUR. The border surveillance system, managed by Frontex in Warsaw, became operational in 2014 – initially only in some EU Member States.

The Statewatch study also documented in detail the investments made by the Defence Agency (EDA) in European drone research up to 2014. More than €190 million in funding for drones on land, at sea and in the air has flowed since the EU military agency was founded. 39 projects researched technologies or standards to make the unmanned systems usable for civilian and military purposes. „Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe“ weiterlesen

German Navy buys unmanned helicopters

The Defence Ministry is equipping five corvettes with helicopter drones. This could bring a procurement process that has been going on for 13 years to an end.

Last week, the German Bundestag passed a bill for the „Eurodrone“, a far-reaching drone project. Under the leadership of Airbus, defence companies from Germany, France and Italy are to develop and mass-produce a drone weighing around 11 tonnes for almost four billion euros. It can be used for reconnaissance, interception and attacks.

Also on the agenda of the Budget and Defence Committee, but with less fanfare, was the procurement of a naval drone. In the AImEG project („Reconnaissance and Identification in the Maritime Operational Area“), the Ministry of Defence has been planning since the noughties to equip its then new „Braunschweig-class“ corvettes type K130 with helicopter drones. They are to reconnoitre so-called „overwater contacts“ at a distance of up to 40 nautical miles (about 74 kilometres) and be used, for example, for boarding ships. For this purpose, the aircraft are equipped with digital cameras and infrared sensors. „German Navy buys unmanned helicopters“ weiterlesen