Equipment and training: Germany supports police build-up in Croatia

The Croatian police are known for their brutality and human rights violations at the country’s external borders, yet the German governments continues to train them. Number plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras and vehicles could be used for pushbacks in violation of international law.

Croatia has been an official member of the European Union since 2013. Until then, the Western Balkan state has received the usual financial „pre-accession aid“ to get fit for joining the Schengen area. However, the country is still denied full application of the Schengen acquis because of concerns raised by France and the Netherlands about the lack of rule of law. Therefore, internal border controls with neighbouring EU states Slovenia and Hungary continue.

However, one reason for the blockade of full Schengen application by individual EU members could also be Croatia’s function as a bulwark on the so-called „Balkan route“. Many refugees cross the country to reach wealthier EU states and apply for asylum there. Maintaining internal border controls with its northern neighbours could make this unwanted migration more difficult. „Equipment and training: Germany supports police build-up in Croatia“ weiterlesen

Human rights violations in Malta: Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer criticises own air surveillance

An emergency at sea in May this year shows how Maltese authorities lets unseaworthy boats pass unrescued so that refugees are taken on board much later by neighbouring Italy or drown. Frontex’s acting Fundamental Rights Officer has clearer words for this than his predecessor.

Since 2017, the Warsaw-based European Union border agency is monitoring the migration route in the central Mediterranean Sea with specially leased planes. Meanwhile, the service is supported by two large drones from Malta and Crete. The deployment of the aircraft opens a backdoor for refoulement in violation of international law: Frontex takes over the aerial surveillance for the Tripoli coast guard, so that they take the discovered refugees back to Libya. This even happens regularly when boats are in Malta’s sea rescue zone.

Jonas Grimheden, the Fundamental Rights Officer at Frontex, has strong words for this practice. This is what it says in a „Serious Incident Report“ that the agency had to release in response to my Freedom of Information request. According to this, Frontex employees lack criteria for classifying when a boat must be rescued immediately by units in the vicinity. The border agency is therefore to start a „dialogue“ on definitions of vessels in distress with Malta, which is also criticised in the report for its inaction. „Human rights violations in Malta: Frontex Fundamental Rights Officer criticises own air surveillance“ 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

Criticism also of COP 27: Egyptian blogger still on hunger strike

Egyptians in exile are currently protesting for the release of blogger and democracy activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah. A Berlin based solidarity group has also criticised Germany, which is an important trading partner of the regime in Cairo and wants to import „green energy“.

The Egyptian activist and blogger Alaa Abd el-Fattah is considered one of the faces of the 2011 revolution, but the government keeps imprisoning him. He has been on hunger strike since 2 April, eating only 100 calories a day. Alaa also has British citizenship, so his supporters are protesting in front of British consulates and embassies. The new solidarity group OccupyCOP27 from Berlin responds about this. „Criticism also of COP 27: Egyptian blogger still on hunger strike“ weiterlesen

EU instead of EC: New directive facilitates cross-border data exchange

The 2006 „Swedish Initiative“ is being replaced by a new set of rules. This „Lisbonization“ of EU-wide information exchange comes with a uniform case management system and file format, and requires shorter deadlines for processing requests.

The European Union could soon adopt a new directive on information exchange between law enforcement agencies. The Commission had presented a proposal to this effect in December as part of its „Police Code“.

At the upcoming Council of Interior Ministers in Luxembourg on June 10, the member states want to decide their position vis-à-vis the Parliament. Then the so-called trilogue negotiations of the three EU legislative bodies can begin. „EU instead of EC: New directive facilitates cross-border data exchange“ weiterlesen

Encrypted communication: UK remains member of EU interception group

Despite Brexit, British police can influence surveillance laws in the EU. The country is also represented in European secret service circles.

Notwithstanding its exit from the European Union, the British police will remain a member of a Standing Heads of Lawful Interception Units based at Europol. The UK is represented there by the National Crime Agency. This was confirmed by the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, in her answer to a parlamentary question by the pirate Patrick Breyer. The UK is thus the only third country in the group, which otherwise consists exclusively of EU members and the Schengen states Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

The working group of the departments on telecommunications surveillance had once been founded as a strategic „5G Expert Group“ on the initiative of the German Federal Criminal Police Office. It was supposed to give the authorities access to the new telephone standard, which was actually tap-proof. After this was successfully pushed through in the European and international standardisation bodies ETSI and 3GPP, the group was given a new name and new tasks in October 2021. It is now to ensure that the needs of law enforcement agencies are taken into account when amending surveillance laws at EU level and in the member states. „Encrypted communication: UK remains member of EU interception group“ weiterlesen

Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs

Following a review by other Schengen states, the Greek government is improving surveillance and control of its external borders, funded by EU funds. This could encourage pushbacks in violation of international law.

European Union member states are likely to oblige Greece to further upgrade its external borders. A draft decision by the EU Commission, published by the civil rights organisation Statewatch, states that surveillance at land and sea borders will be stepped up. Greek authorities would also have to improve controls at border crossings.

The demands are based on an evaluation of the application of the so-called Schengen acquis in Greece from the summer of 2021. Such reviews take place regularly in each member state and are intended to determine whether a government is complying with Schengen rules. The evaluation teams consist of volunteers from other EU countries. The „deficiencies“ found are documented in a report. „Demands from EU member states: Greece to upgrade borders with helicopters, drones, police dogs“ 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

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

China: Algorithm law for „positive energy“

The government in Beijing has passed a globally unique regulation for consumer protection on the internet

China installed a new law on Tuesday to rein in algorithms on the internet. The hitherto unique regulation covers applications that make further purchase or reading recommendations to their users based on their behaviour. In future, it will be forbidden to entice customers to excessively spend money or to make them dependent on an internet service. Software-based pricing, if it is to the detriment of consumers, will therefore also be prohibited. After all, operators must prevent fraud and unfair competition, as well as ensure that no false or illegal content is published. The apps should instead „promote positive energy“.

The law affects a wide range of companies, including internet marketplaces such as Alibaba, which has now become a mega-corporation with numerous integrated apps. Delivery service providers must also now revise their technology. The law furthermore addresses the social networks TikTok or Douyin, which are popular among young people and bombard their users with ever new content. „China: Algorithm law for „positive energy““ weiterlesen