Terrorism, crime, migration: Nine EU agencies active because of Ukraine war

Most of the action is being taken by Europol and Frontex, which together have deployed around 280 staff to the region. Eurojust collects evidence against war crimes. The agency for the operation of large databases, on the other hand, plays a minor role.

At the end of March, the European Council called on its member states to better coordinate the reception of refugees from Ukraine. In addition to this ten-point plan and initial emergency financial aid of €668 million, the government in Kiev is being supported by individual member states in the security sector with military aid against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The EU is providing €2.5 billion for this purpose. On 25 July 2022, the European Investment Bank approved an additional €1.6 billion aid package for reconstruction.

Less well known is the support provided by EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) agencies, some of which are also carrying out extensive operations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. As a „network of JHA agencies“, they published a joint statement with a „commitment to assist“ just two weeks after the war began. Some of them participate in the „Working Group on Integrated Political Crisis Response“, through which the EU aims to react on security incidents. A recently published overview describes the different activities. „Terrorism, crime, migration: Nine EU agencies active because of Ukraine war“ weiterlesen

New super-databases: EU agencies get experience from the USA

The EU wants to store fingerprints and facial images of over 400 million people from third countries in a single silo. US authorities already have such a system for around 275 million people. Both sides now want to cooperate more closely on this matter.

The European Union is currently merging all databases containing biometric data into a new system. Under the heading of „Interoperability“, this involves the Schengen Information System, the visa database, the fingerprint system for asylum seekers and a file on foreign convicts in terrorism proceedings.

In this way, a new super-database is being created, which will be supplemented next year by an Entry/Exit System (EES). After refugees and those requiring visas, all other travellers from third countries will then also have to hand over their biometric data when crossing the border into the EU. The entire new system could then contain fingerprints and facial images of over 400 million people from third countries, writes Sopra Steria, one of the contractors for the interoperability project. „New super-databases: EU agencies get experience from the USA“ weiterlesen

New pre-authorization system: Profiling of passengers could also be banned for Frontex

Under the new ETIAS system, Frontex processes application forms from travelers from visa-free countries. The border agency is to develop an algorithm to determine their risk. A court ruling may have brought those plans crashing down.

On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) published a landmark decision on the EU’s passenger data system. Among numerous other violations of fundamental rights, the court in a preliminary ruling criticizes the use of „self-learning systems“ that search for anomalies in the mass data that is collected without any reason.

The automated pre-assessment of travelers is also criticized. According to the ECJ, the use of predictive selectors or algorithms must be ruled out in the warrantless screening of passengers. The ruling is thus also significant for the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which is to use algorithms to profile all travelers from third countries. It is scheduled to go live in nine months. „New pre-authorization system: Profiling of passengers could also be banned for Frontex“ weiterlesen

Disrupted supply chains: Chip shortage hampers new EU databases

An EU agency is building a recognition system with biometric data on 400 million travellers. The contractors seem to have overstretched themselves

In future, anyone wishing to enter the European Union without a visa will have to register in a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) via a form on the internet, providing information on the purpose and course of the journey. Only with a travel authorisation can the border be crossed. In an Entry/Exit System (EES), all travellers must then submit four fingerprints and a facial image. The biometric data will end up in a huge archive that will be merged with other databases.

In the EU, the introduction of the new information systems is known as Interoperability. Various difficulties in implementation have already delayed the project by several months, and now more complications are on the horizon. This is stated in a presentation by the French Council Presidency, published by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. According to it, a questionnaire answered by 24 EU member states showed delays in several countries. „Disrupted supply chains: Chip shortage hampers new EU databases“ weiterlesen

DNA, facial images and fingerprints: German biometric police systems contain 10 million people

Police authorities are increasingly requesting biometric data, more and more often with success. The search is carried out in German and European information systems. However, the results are not always trustworthy.

Since 2008, German police forces have been able to search biometric photographs in the INPOL file at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). For this purpose, the authorities use a facial recognition system (GES), which is also made available via the BKA. Currently, about 5.5 million portrait images of 3.6 million persons are stored there for search purposes. This is what the Federal Ministry of the Interior writes in its answer to a parlamentarian question by the Left Party. In addition to the BKA, the Federal Police and the State Criminal Police Offices can also use the GES. In 2021, the authorities made a total of 90,425 queries there, an increase of about 20 per cent compared to 2020. 4,990 persons were identified, compared to 4,403 the year before. „DNA, facial images and fingerprints: German biometric police systems contain 10 million people“ weiterlesen

Plans for „Prüm II“: EU member states also want to query driving licence facial images

In the framework of the Prüm decisions, police forces have networked their files for fingerprints, DNA data and motor vehicle data across Europe. A new regulation is to extend this to faces. Now there is a threat of further tightening.

With a new „Regulation on automated data exchange for police cooperation“, the European Commission wants to network biometric photographs in police databases across Europe and make them searchable with facial recognition. In this way, a police authority can inquire whether information is available on an unknown person in other countries. A proposal to this effect from last December is currently being discussed by the Council of Ministers of the Interior and Justice, after which the Parliament is to deal with it.

The background is the Prüm Treaty, which seven EU member states signed 17 years ago in the Eifel town. It regulates cooperation in the exchange of fingerprints, non-coding DNA data as well as motor vehicle and owner data. In 2008, the multilateral agreement was transferred into the legal framework of the EU via the EU-Prüm Decision. The Schengen states Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are also involved in the network, as is Great Britain after Brexit. „Plans for „Prüm II“: EU member states also want to query driving licence facial images“ weiterlesen

New Frontex command structures: Vice directors begin their work

Since 2016, the EU border agency has been given considerably more power. A new management post is now responsible for the currently established armed border force, a deportation unit and data retention.

With two new regulations, the Council of the European Union and the Parliament have equipped the border agency Frontex with new capabilities and competences. Since 2016, Frontex has been allowed to acquire vehicles, aircraft and drones and decide on their deployment there after approval by a host state. The 2019 regulation also provides for the establishment of a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 officers reporting directly to the headquarters in Warsaw. The 2019 Regulation also allows Frontex to prepare and conduct deportation flights on its own. In addition, the „Standing Corps“ will also take over the establishment and operation of a huge new database for personal travel information.

Frontex was given a new command structure for the three new areas. For the first time, the Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri is assisted by three Deputy Directors. The positions were advertised a year ago and appointed in October. Together with their superior, they have sole authority over all operations. The Frontex Regulation guarantees that no other body has authority over the management of the border agency. „New Frontex command structures: Vice directors begin their work“ weiterlesen

Migration control: EU agency spends € 1.5 billion on virtual borders

The launch of the new Entry/Exit System is delayed to September 2023, the Commission says the contracted companies are to blame.

Between 2014 and 2020 alone, Frontex and eu-LISA agencies spent a total of €1.9 billion on contracts for border surveillance and control systems. This figure is provided by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch, which analysed tenders on the European procurement platform. The money went mainly to large corporations from the IT sector and to arms companies.

Around a quarter of the money was spent on Frontex. After the so-called „migration crisis“, the EU border agency began setting up its own air surveillance service in 2016. This flight service with charter aircraft was supplemented last year by contracts for two large drones in the central Mediterranean. In the current budget, around one-sixth of the agency’s annual budget goes towards leasing the manned and unmanned aircraft. „Migration control: EU agency spends € 1.5 billion on virtual borders“ weiterlesen

Facial recognition and police records: European biometric systems to be expanded

A new Prüm system will make it possible to query facial images across Europe in the future, and a central biometric EU repository will also be connected to it

For 14 years, the member states of the European Union have been able to query each other’s fingerprints, non-coding DNA data, motor vehicle and owner data. The basis for this is the Prüm Treaty, which was initially signed by seven EU members in the Eifel town in 2005. Three years later, the EU Prüm Decision followed, making the set of rules for improving police data exchange valid throughout the Union. As non-EU states, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom also participate in the Prüm network.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Decision in 2018, the Council proposed to extend cooperation to facial images. The Commission recently presented a draft for such a Prüm II. The paper is now being discussed by the member states in the relevant Council working groups, and the position of the interior and justice ministers is to be determined by spring. Afterwards, the Parliament will deal with it. „Facial recognition and police records: European biometric systems to be expanded“ weiterlesen

Travel authorisations: Carriers must query new EU database

A new information system is supposed to screen travellers for risks at the EU’s external borders. Of interest is, among other things, whether there is an irregular migration history or an „epidemic risk“. The agencies Europol and Frontex will receive new tasks for this.

After some delay, the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will go live at the end of next year. All visa free travellers entering the Schengen area for a short stay will have to register online via a form a few days before crossing the border. The information is checked automatically, after which the system issues either clearance or a contestable refusal of entry. The procedure costs 7 euros, a travel authorisation is valid for three years.

Carriers who operate journeys across an external EU border face new obligations and costs with the ETIAS Regulation. This concerns providers of air, sea, train or bus travel. Before boarding, they must check whether their passengers have a valid travel authorisation. For this, the companies will be given permission to check the passengers‘ papers in ETIAS when they make a booking. Yesterday, the European Union asked companies to register for this process. The first tests of the system are to begin in February 2022. „Travel authorisations: Carriers must query new EU database“ weiterlesen