Access to biometric data: Five states concede to U.S. government demand, MEPs speak of ‚blackmail‘

Visa-free entry to the United States will be tied to a new requirement. Officials there want to be allowed to conduct automated searches for fingerprints and facial images in national databases of EU states. In Brussels, questions now abound about the EU’s jurisdiction.

At least five governments worldwide have agreed to give the U.S. Department of Homeland Security access to their national biometric police databases. This is to become a new provision so that citizens of the countries concerned can continue to enter the USA without a visa. Most recently, Great Britain has agreed to such an Enhanced Border Security Partnership (EBSP); this was already known about Israel.

In addition, three EU countries are said to have already concluded a bilateral agreement with the government in Washington, MEPs in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) learned last Wednesday in a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to the EU. However, they remained unnamed. „Access to biometric data: Five states concede to U.S. government demand, MEPs speak of ‚blackmail‘“ weiterlesen

New Schengen Council: Frontex as „spearhead“ of new border policy

With a new steering group, the French EU Presidency wants to monitor the coordinates of asylum and migration policy in Europe. The basis is a new measuring instrument for „migratory pressure“.

EU interior ministers have followed the suggestion of French President Emmanuel Macron and decided to set up a Schengen Council at their recent meeting in Lille. The French EU presidency calls it the „most appropriate forum for essential exchange of views at the political level“, according to a document from the Council published yesterday by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch. It will be constituted at the upcoming Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 3 and 4 March.

As a steering group, the Schengen Council is to monitor the situation at the EU’s external borders and dovetail it with measures within the Schengen area. In this way, the member states are to prevent further erosion of the freedom of movement and ensure a reduction of internal border controls. Their temporary reintroduction is permitted under the Schengen Borders Code, but since 2015 some states have made excessive use of them. „New Schengen Council: Frontex as „spearhead“ of new border policy“ weiterlesen

Strategic Compass: EU to get new secret service centre

The two EU secret service situation centres could soon be merged into a single institution. Their surveillance capacities are currently being expanded. Operational competences are also under discussion.

The European Commission wants to take the cooperation of intelligence services within the EU to a new level. In her „State of the Union“ address last September, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promoted the establishment of a Joint Situational Awareness Centre. How it should differ from other intelligence structures, however, remained unclear.

Now the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has also commented on the matter. In his answer to a parliamentary question, Josep Borell writes that „discussions“ on the joint centre will continue within the framework of the Strategic Compass. These are new guidelines for the Common Security and Defence Policy. They should help to make the military efforts of the EU and its member states more operational. „Strategic Compass: EU to get new secret service centre“ weiterlesen

European police networking in the twilight

The Police Working Group on Terrorism (PWGT) consists of the political departments of police authorities in all Schengen states. The informal group was established in 1979 as a response to left-wing armed movements. After their disappearance, the purpose of the PWGT was expanded to include „political violent activities“.

Together with police authorities from the Netherlands, Belgium and Great Britain, the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) started the European „Informal Terrorism Working Group“ in 1979. The founding date was 25 and 26 April, prompted by attacks by armed left-wing groups in various European countries. One month earlier, the British ambassador Richard Sykes was killed in The Hague. The Irish IRA claimed responsibility, initially, however, the police also considered the involvement of Palestinian groups or the German RAF possible.

Before Margaret Thatcher was elected British Prime Minister in May 1979, the Irish National Liberation Army killed her future Northern Ireland Minister with a car bomb. In Germany at that time, IRA commandos carried out attacks on British soldiers, in Belgium the RAF tried to blow up the NATO supreme commander in Europe. This was reason enough for the BKA’s „Terrorism“ department, like the left-wing movements, to do better in international networking. „European police networking in the twilight“ weiterlesen

The EU in Crypto War

Once again, the EU member states demand the weakening of encryption, associations and activists protest vehemently

The German EU Council Presidency wants to pass a resolution to give police forces and secret services easier access to encrypted communications. Operators of end-to-end encrypted services are to provide the authorities with opportunities to intercept. This would apply to platforms such as Signal or WhatsApp, which encrypt their data streams in general. Telegram also offers its users this option, but the end-to-end encryption must be set separately in the app.

On December 3, the resolution drafted by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior is to be discussed and adopted at the Council of Interior Ministers in Brussels. The British civil rights organization Statewatch had put a first draft online, and on Sunday the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) published a new version. It functionalizes the recent attack in Vienna as a necessity for competent authorities to read encrypted communication. „The EU in Crypto War“ weiterlesen

Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services

Although the Lisbon Treaty excludes intelligence cooperation, European domestic services cooperate with Europol and a Situation Centre in Brussels. Next week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss extending this questionable practice.

The European Union intends to further intensify cooperation with the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG). At the forthcoming meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in Brussels, the group will once again present a report on cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Afterwards, an „exchange of ideas“ is planned. Because two non-EU states are also organised in the CTG, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will take place in the so-called Schengen format with Switzerland and Norway.

The secret services group has been regularly invited to the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers for the past four years. Its last report took place at the joint meeting in June. Topics included returning combatants from countries such as Syria and Iraq and the need to decrypt telecommunications. The CTG also reported plans to extend its tasks, currently limited to Islamist terrorism, to other areas. „Without mandate: EU cooperates with European secret services“ weiterlesen

EU adopts system for cyber sanctions

Anyone who „maliciously“ penetrates European information systems from a third country must expect a ban on entry and the confiscation of assets. However, it is unclear how such an attack is to be attributed.

The European Union has adopted new ways of responding to cyber attacks. Suspected attackers from third countries must reckon with sanctions. A corresponding regulation was approved by the Economic and Financial Affairs Council on Friday and subsequently published in the EU Official Journal. It is therefore in force immediately.

In the „Regulation on restrictive measures against cyber attacks threatening the Union or its member states“, the EU states follow a graduated procedure. As with violations of the Foreign Trade and Payments Act, persons, organisations or other „institutions“ are placed on a sanctions list and banned from entering the EU. Their assets can be confiscated or „frozen“. Sanctions may also be imposed on persons or entities associated with the persons concerned. Aid and abet to circumvent the EU measures will also be penalised. „EU adopts system for cyber sanctions“ weiterlesen