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: Germany advocates „European Police Partnership“

The German Federal Ministry of the Interior wants to expand Europol and the international exchange of data during its EU Presidency. European police authorities will be supported with face recognition and decryption capabilities. Also on the agenda are the Europe-wide query of police files and the exchange on a definition of persons which pose „a potential terrorist/extremist threat“.

On 1 July Germany took over the six-monthly EU Council Presidency, the last time the Federal Government held the Presidency was in the first half of 2007. In the field of Justice and Home Affairs, the programme of the Interior and Justice Ministries is under the motto „A Europe of security and common values“. Germany is focusing on a „European Police Partnership“. The term is vaguely formulated; even when asked, the Ministry of Interior merely states that cross-border cooperation between police authorities is to be „improved“ and achieved by ensuring that „every police officer has access to the necessary information from other Member States“.

What is „necessary“ will therefore be defined by the German Ministry of the Interior in the next six months. The European Union has numerous formats for the exchange of information between police and customs, and its agencies are also involved. The „European Police Partnership“ is not intended to create new instruments, but to expand the existing ones. This includes new legislative procedures. „EU Presidency: Germany advocates „European Police Partnership““ 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 Aerial Service: Reconnaissance for the so-called Libyan coast guard

The EU Border Agency charters private aircraft to monitor the EU’s external borders. First Italy and Croatia have ordered the flights, now Frontex also flies in the Aegean Sea, above the Black Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The service will soon be supplemented by large drones.

Five years ago, Frontex installed a new service for the monitoring of the EU’s external borders. For flights of this „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS), the agency charters twin-engine airplanes from European companies. Initially, the private aircraft were deployed on EU missions in the maritime „pre-frontier area“ of the European Union. These missions „Poseidon“, „Themis“ and „Indalo“ are under the leadership of Greece, Italy and Spain. Normally, all planes and helicopters inserted there come from police or border police from the EU Member States.

With the FASS airplanes, Frontex for the first time used their own assets, which is possible after a change of the Frontex regulation in 2016. Since 2017, Frontex offers the FASS service in bilateral agreements to EU Member States. Their operational differs from a regular Frontex mission, the agency sends the chartered surveillance flights in the central Mediterranean also to the Libyan Sea rescue zone and thus further south than in „Themis“. „Frontex Aerial Service: Reconnaissance for the so-called Libyan coast guard“ weiterlesen

No Israeli drones fly for Frontex after crash

Several Member States use EU services for unmanned maritime surveillance of different sizes. Operations for Frontex were stopped since January.

The border agency Frontex will not use Israeli drones to monitor the external borders of the European Union until further notice. This is what the EU Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, writes in response to a written question by left-wing MEP Özlem Demirel. The background is the crash of a long-range drone of the Israeli armament company Elbit on January 8th of this year on Crete. The incident with the „Hermes 900“ occurred on the runway of Tympaki airport in Crete.

For the first time, the Commission is now giving details of the incident. According to the commission, it was a „hard landing“ after sensors of the drone had displayed „unexpected readings“. The aircraft then deviated from the runway, which, as Greek media reported, led to considerable damage. The Commission confirms that the fuselage, wings and sensors were damaged, but that „no casualties nor damage on the running way“ occurred. The „Hermes 900“ was apparently flown by pilots of the manufacturer Elbit. „No Israeli drones fly for Frontex after crash“ weiterlesen

Project Interoperability: EU to pay 300 million EUR for face and fingerprint recognition

The companies IDEMIA and Sopra Steria are setting up a biometric recognition system for the EU. For this purpose, fingerprints and facial images from five databases will be stored in a single file. Completion is planned in two years, but in an earlier large-scale IT project of the EU, one of the partners was seven years behind schedule.

The European Union has awarded a major contract for a new fingerprint and face recognition system. A consortium consisting of the two French companies IDEMIA and Sopra Steria is to set up and subsequently manage a Shared Biometric Matching System (sBMS).

The contract was awarded by the EU agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems (eu-LISA). According to the invitation to tender, the framework contract costs around 300 million EUR. Its duration is four years with an option for an extension of up to six years. As the two contractors explain, „one of the largest biometric systems in the world“ will be created. In two years, the database will contain 400 million third-country nationals. „Project Interoperability: EU to pay 300 million EUR for face and fingerprint recognition“ weiterlesen

Refusal from London: British problems in the Schengen Information System remain

Following a decision by the Council, the government in Great Britain has to work through a long list of shortcomings regarding participation in Europe’s largest police database. Although most omissions are even classified as serious and should therefore be rectified „without delay“, the British Home Office remains stubborn. Actually, such cases should lead to a decoupling.

The British government does not want to repair several errors in the national implementation of the Schengen Information System (SIS). The EU Commission had called for 34 shortcomings to be remedied, but according to a now published note from Brussels, Britain is only following six of these recommendations. Among the persistent shortcomings are the creation of copies of the SIS or the lack of assistance in searches from the associated Schengen countries. Measures such as making the SIS easier to use or the installation of a screen so that the contents of the screen cannot be viewed during a border check have however been implemented. „Refusal from London: British problems in the Schengen Information System remain“ weiterlesen

Western Balkans: Clandestine connection to EU databases

Even without imminent EU accession, all third countries in South-East Europe will gradually be connected to European information systems. They will set up a fingerprint database along the lines of the EU model and, as in the Prüm Treaty, will make it possible to query biometric data. Secret services in the Western Balkans also use the Schengen Information System through a back door.

Albania, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro are EU accession candidates, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are considered potential candidate countries. All governments therefore receive so-called Pre-accession Assistance for the development of police and border police capabilities. They are based on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement that the countries have concluded with the EU.

The European Union now wants to significantly expand security cooperation with all the countries of the Western Balkans. One focus is on irregular migration. The governments in South-East Europe have already received 216 million Euros for their control since 2007, and funds of a similar amount have flowed into the construction and operation of camps for refugees. According to a proposal by the Croatian Council Presidency, the Western Balkan governments should now set up a biometric database for refugees. It will be based on the Eurodac database, in which EU member states process the fingerprints of asylum seekers. The two fingerprint systems could then be merged after possible EU accession. In addition to fingerprints, Eurodac also stores facial images, but they are not yet searchable. „Western Balkans: Clandestine connection to EU databases“ weiterlesen

Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one“

Customs authorities are seen as „gatekeepers of EU borders for the flow of goods“. They increasingly rely on „risk analysis“ and new information systems. Now the EU customs cooperation with police and border authorities will be enhanced.

Since 1968, the European Economic Community has been a Customs Union for industrial products, and from 1970 for agricultural products as well. All customs formalities at the internal borders of the member states have been dropped. Even the level of customs duties at the external borders, on which all countries had previously decided on their own responsibility, has since been regulated by a common customs tariff.
The framework for today’s EU customs union is the Union Customs Code (CCC) adopted in 1992. It provides uniform rules for customs tariffs on imports from outside the EU. The European Commission constantly proposes updated customs regulations and monitors their implementation. The Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD) in Brussels has responsibility for this. It also operates the tariff system (TARIC3), which displays the current rates.

Customs duties are generally paid where the goods first arrive. The revenue generated is considered the EU’s „traditional own resources“ and covers around 14 percent of its total budget. The member states retain 20 percent of this amount for expenses incurred by their customs authorities and their control activities. In 2016, for example, the EU collected around 25 billion euros in customs duties, leaving 20 billion after deduction of national expenditure. In the last three years, around four billion euros of the total revenue came from Germany. „Customs Union: 27 countries „work together as if they were one““ weiterlesen