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

EU drones: Permanent permit for maritime surveillance

This year, the EU is again conducting drone flights for many Member States. Due to many unfulfilled requests, unmanned capabilities are now being expanded. Two drones from Austria and Portugal have become established for coastguard missions. One of the manufacturers has now received a Europe-wide certificate for the first time.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has presented its plans for unmanned flights over European seas this year. According to the report, 14 European governments want to use EMSA drones for coastguard tasks, tracking pollution or inspecting port facilities. This is stated in the EU Commission’s answer to a written question by MEP Özlem Demirel.

EMSA has become the European Union’s drone agency after initial tests in 2017. Missions were first carried out for the coast guard of Iceland. Subsequently, Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and France, as well as the EU Fisheries Agency, have ordered the services with different types of drones. The duration of the respective missions is usually three months. Soon, Frontex will also have large drones at its disposal; until then, the EU border agency uses EMSA unmanned aerial vehicles. „EU drones: Permanent permit for maritime surveillance“ weiterlesen

Taser at the German Federal Police: Shooting from the back

In a year’s time, the German Ministry of the Interior could decide on the nationwide equipment of the Federal Police with electroshock weapons. Until then, the officers may in a pilot project shoot at children as well.

At the beginning of September, the Federal Police Inspectorates Berlin-Ostbahnhof, Kaiserslautern and Frankfurt/Main-Hauptbahnhof started a pilot project on the use of tasers. But the officers are to avoid shots at heart patients. This is stated in an administrative regulation of 7 August, which the Federal Ministry of the Interior has only just published in the governmental „Ministerialblatt“ for the „Taser X2“ model of the US manufacturer Axon. The document can only be obtained for a fee; the FOIA platform „Frag den Staat“ has put it online.

With tasers, the officers shoot tiny arrows connected to a wire, which penetrate the skin by about one centimetre and emit a current pulse of 50,000 volts for several seconds. Those affected feel a very strong pain and are initially completely paralysed. „Taser at the German Federal Police: Shooting from the back“ weiterlesen

Police in Austria use facial recognition for demonstrations

The comparison of police photographs in Austria and Germany was provided by the Cognitech company from Dresden. In both countries the technology was used in investigations after political assemblies. In future, the EU wants to make facial image searches possible in all member states.

The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Austria also uses its new facial recognition software for investigations into political assemblies. This was reported by „Der Standard“ with reference to unspecified documents. According to the magazine, the police use the application to analyse photographs of demonstrations that took place in the Favoriten district of Vienna in summer. At that time, Turkish right-wing extremists had attacked and injured first feminist and then Kurdish and anti-fascist activists. In the course of the several days of fighting, a leftist center was also attacked. „Police in Austria use facial recognition for demonstrations“ weiterlesen

European Commission finds shortcomings in the implementation of the Passenger Name Record Directive

Only two EU Member States have not yet implemented the EU PNR Directive, and almost all of them also use it for flights within the European Union. There are problems with data protection and data quality. Regardless of the lawsuits before the European Court of Justice, the EU Commission is working on an extension.

Four years ago, the European Union adopted the „EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive“. In order to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute terrorist offences and serious crime, the 26 EU member states participating in the directive are to set up a Passenger Information Unit (PIU), which will receive extensive data records on passengers from the airlines when they book and board flights. The European Commission has now submitted a report on the implementation of the measures, as required. „European Commission finds shortcomings in the implementation of the Passenger Name Record Directive“ weiterlesen

EU Presidency: German government wants to use passenger data to track corona infections

In an EU-wide survey, the German Interior Ministry is examining how passenger data could be processed in the fight against the Covid 19 pandemic. This would require a change in the PNR directive. Possibly this would also affect bus and train travel.

On 1 July, Germany took over the EU Council Presidency in rotation. As one of the first initiatives in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, the German Ministry of the Interior is proposing to use passenger name records (PNR) collected from airlines to track Covid-19 infections. To this end, the government has sent a questionnaire to all other EU member states.

PNR data includes all information that travellers leave behind when booking and checking in with an airline, including names and contact details, credit card numbers, IP and e-mail addresses, hotels booked, fellow travellers and food preferences. This information is transmitted twice by the airlines to the relevant authorities in the destination country: when booking and when boarding the aircraft. „EU Presidency: German government wants to use passenger data to track corona infections“ weiterlesen

EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis

A new monitoring system for Tunisian coasts should counter irregular migration across the Mediterranean. The German Ministry of the Interior is also active in the country. A similar project in Libya has now been completed. Human rights organisations see it as an aid to „pull backs“ contrary to international law.

In order to control and prevent migration, the European Union is supporting North African states in border surveillance. The central Mediterranean Sea off Malta and Italy, through which asylum seekers from Libya and Tunisia want to reach Europe, plays a special role. The EU conducts various operations in and off these countries, including the military mission „Irini“ and the Frontex mission „Themis“. It is becoming increasingly rare for shipwrecked refugees to be rescued by EU Member States. Instead, they assist the coast guards in Libya and Tunisia to bring the people back. Human rights groups, rescue organisations and lawyers consider this assistance for „pull backs“ to be in violation of international law.

With several measures, the EU and its member states want to improve the surveillance off North Africa. Together with Switzerland, the EU Commission has financed a two-part „Integrated Border Management Project“ in Tunisia. It is part of the reform of the security sector which was begun a few years after the fall of former head of state Ben Ali in 2011. With one pillar of this this programme, the EU wants to „prevent criminal networks from operating“ and enable the authorities in the Gulf of Tunis to „save lives at sea“. „EU pays for surveillance in Gulf of Tunis“ weiterlesen

Frontex launches new operations in Greece

In two RABIT missions, the EU Border Agency is sending 100 additional officials to the Greek-Turkish land and sea border. Frontex currently has around 600 operational forces stationed in Greece.

Frontex has started two new missions in Greece. Following a decision by Director Fabrice Leggeri, the EU Border Agency is sending border guards with technical assets to the Aegean Sea. A further mission has been launched today to reinforce police and military units for border surveillance on the land border with Turkey. This follows a request by the government in Athens.

Frontex is coordinating the new operations with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who visited the Greek-Turkish land border with the President of Parliament and the President of the Council on 3 March. Von der Leyen did not say a word about the one-month suspension of asylum applications imposed by Greece, nor did she comment on Greek attacks on refugees. Instead, she praised the government’s measures as a „European shield“ and promised emergency financial aid of 700 million euros for „migration management“. „Frontex launches new operations in Greece“ weiterlesen