Border drones (Part 1): Unmanned surveillance of the EU’s external borders by Frontex

Since 2009, the EU Border Agency Frontex has been hosting training events on drones and inviting manufacturers to regular demonstrations. There, border police from Schengen member states were presented market-available unmanned systems for the surveillance of land and maritime borders. The basis for this is the first Frontex Regulation, adopted in 2004, which contains the mandate to „follow up on the development of research relevant for the control and surveillance of external borders“. The agency’s remit therefore includes continuous exchange with „cross-sectorial partners“ in order to „transform operational requirements into innovative operational solutions“.

In the case of the introduction of these technologies, Frontex is to coordinate with European standardisation institutes as appropriate. In 2010, small drones were the initial focus in Finland. A year later, high-flying MALE-class aircraft were unveiled in the Greek port city of Aktio. Prior to this, Frontex had issued a call for the event to explore the integration of drones into the EU border surveillance system EUROSUR. Subsequently, aircraft such as the Israeli „Heron 1“, the American „Predator“, the French „Patroller“ as well as the „Euro Hawk“ (which at the time was in the procurement phase for the German Armed Forces as a spy drone) were presented in lectures. Some drones were demonstrated live; in the case of the Spanish offshoot of the French arms company Thales, the latter touted the suitability of its „Fulmar“ against irregular migration.

In its 2012 work programme, Frontex announced its intention to „identify more cost-efficient and operational effective solutions for aerial border surveillance in particular Unmanned Aircraft Systems“. Under the name „All Eyes“, the agency then wanted to identify cheap and effective solutions, including also so-called Optional Piloted Aerial Vehicles (OPV). Within nine months, an initial study on this was to be carried out, followed by „practical field tests and an evaluation“. The budget was 450,000 euros. „Border drones (Part 1): Unmanned surveillance of the EU’s external borders by Frontex“ 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

Privileged third country: EU security cooperation with Great Britain after Brexit

British authorities continue to participate in many EU instruments in the area of justice and home affairs, and cooperation in some cases even goes further than with the Schengen states Norway, Iceland or Switzerland. The exit from Europol and the Schengen Information System could strengthen the secret services.

With its withdrawal from the European Union, the UK will have left the „European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice“ as of 1 January 2021, and the country will become a third country from the EU’s perspective. This will also end cooperation within the framework of the Schengen Agreement. The government in London will lose its place as one of the most important partners in the EU security architecture. The loss of participation in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) will probably weigh heavily in the UK. In 2019, British police forces and intelligence services had around 37,000 persons and 4.5 million objects stored there. Many covert Article 36 alerts, which allow police and domestic intelligence to track the movements of wanted persons across the EU, also originated in the UK.

However, British authorities are to be allowed to continue to participate in important EU information systems in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and also to cooperate with agencies. These are the provisions of the provisional „EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement“ (TCA), which the parties negotiated at the last minute before the turn of the year. „Privileged third country: EU security cooperation with Great Britain after Brexit“ weiterlesen

EU Commission wants to use artificial intelligence for surveillance

An EU document compares machine learning with the invention of electricity. A total of 20 billion euros is to be invested in research into „AI made in Europe“.

A „Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence“ of the European Union envisages the increased use of algorithms in the areas of „migration, infrastructure monitoring“. This is the message in the annex to the communication from the EU Commission, which the Secretary General addressed to the Council shortly before Christmas. AI-based machine learning is to be used primarily in the areas of geoinformation and earth observation.

The EU operates the „Copernicus“ programme, which initially consists of six optical and radar-based satellites. The images and geodata generated from space are used for environmental and safety purposes. Frontex, which requests satellite data for its EUROSUR border surveillance system via „Copernicus“, is regarded as the most important customer in the security sector. The EU Border Agency also uses satellite data to monitor the „pre-frontier area“. According to Frontex, EUROSUR is already able to use algorithms to distinguish between suspicious and unsuspicious ships. „EU Commission wants to use artificial intelligence for surveillance“ weiterlesen

EU to process „confidential security information“ with Libyan Coast Guard

The EU Border Agency has massively strengthened its surveillance capabilities. To make better use of this information, it will now be passed to the Libyan Coast Guard. This is legally impossible, now Frontex is pressing for the relevant regulations to be renewed. The navy in Libya, however, is using a Gmail address.

Libya is to be connected to the European surveillance network „Seahorse Mediterranean“ before the end of December this year. This was written by the State Secretary at the German Federal Foreign Office in response to a parliamentary question. Libyan authorities could learn about relevant incidents in the Mediterranean via the new cooperation. The military coastguard, for example, would receive the coordinates of boats with refugees to bring them back to Libya.

In „Seahorse Mediterranean“ the southern Mediterranean countries of the European Union are joined. In addition to Italy, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, France and Spain, Portugal is also part of the network. It is a multilateral network of some Member States, not an institution of the European Union. „Seahorse Mediterranean“, however, it is connected to the EUROSUR system through which the European Union monitors its external borders. EUROSUR is intended to contribute to an „integrated European border management“. „EU to process „confidential security information“ with Libyan Coast Guard“ weiterlesen

The European Border Intelligence Service

With EUROSUR, the EU Commission has a powerful border surveillance system at its disposal. It brings together reconnaissance data from aircraft, drones and soon also aerostatic balloons. Based on the images, a Frontex unit then decides on further measures in the „pre-frontier area“.

The EU border agency Frontex has launched a series of new surveillance methods in the Mediterranean. This was written by EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in response to several questions from MEP Sabine Lösing. The capabilities are part of the EUROSUR border surveillance system launched by the European Union five years ago. It links the Frontex headquarters in Warsaw with the border authorities of the 28 Member States. Through their national coordination centres, Frontex is informed of all important incidents at the external borders of the European Union. According to the latest figures, around 148,000 irregular migration incidents have been reported since EUROSUR was set up, and around 33,000 have concerned organised crime. „The European Border Intelligence Service“ weiterlesen

EU migration control: easier access to satellite intelligence

Earth observation is playing an increasingly important role in European security and defence policy. Greater synergies are to be achieved between civil and military capabilities in future. This is being trialled in the field of migration control: satellites are providing information about refugees’ “hiding places”, among other things. The border agency Frontex is one of the organisations using this information.

The European Union is now making security-related information from satellite intelligence available using a software application named “GeohuB”. The tool was developed in the framework of the multi-level project “Geospatial Information to Support decision Making in Operations” (GISMO), launched in 2014. The agency responsible is the European Defence Agency (EDA). GeohuB is intended to facilitate geospatial intelligence. According to EDA, it covers “land, sea, airspace and cyber”. „EU migration control: easier access to satellite intelligence“ weiterlesen

New FRONTEX agency: satellite reconnaissance and drones over the Mediterranean

The EU is taking its maritime surveillance to a new level. The three agencies responsible for coastal and maritime surveillance are to be merged. 81 million euros has been earmarked for unmanned aerial vehicles alone, with hundreds of millions also being spent on the necessary satellite capabilities. The money is flowing into the coffers of arms companies.

The FRONTEX border agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) have signed a new cooperation agreement. Its aims include improving border surveillance, intercepting vessels suspected of “engaging in criminal activities” and combating illegal fishing. The agreement was signed on the margins of a conference at which the agencies discussed new forms of maritime surveillance, information sharing and capacity building. „New FRONTEX agency: satellite reconnaissance and drones over the Mediterranean“ weiterlesen