Frontex and the use of force

With the „Standing Corps“, the EU has an armed police force for the first time. The use of guns and other means of coercion is to be monitored by a „Committee on the Use of Force“, whose members are selected by the Frontex director. This reinforces the control deficit at the biggest EU agency.

Until now, Frontex relied exclusively on personnel and equipment sent from EU member states in its operations. The border agency had its own staff of up to 1,500 officers, but they were only in civilian clothes and mainly deployed at the headquarters in Warsaw. In the meantime, Frontex has become the largest agency in the Union in terms of staff and budget. The budget for this year is 544 million Euros, for the next seven years Frontex will receive 5.6 billion Euros.

Most of the money is currently spent on a new border force to implement the strengthened mandate of the border agency. The Frontex Regulation, renewed two years ago, provides for the creation of a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 officers, divided into four categories for short- and long-term missions. 3,000 „Category 1“ officers will be assigned directly to the headquarters in Warsaw as so-called statutory personnel. They wear Frontex uniforms and are allowed to use other means of coercion in addition to pistols. This is the first time the European Union has had an armed police force. „Frontex and the use of force“ 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

EU law: No one can stop Frontex

For the first time, the EU border agency commands and arms its own police force. Because its director is „fully independent“, this reinforces a glaring control deficit.

Frontex is an agency which was established by the Council of the European Union in 2004 with Regulation 2007/2004 without a parliamentary decision. It was only subsequently given parliamentary legitimacy within the framework of the Treaty of Lisbon by means of several amendments to the Regulation (first with the amending Regulation 1186/2011 on the basis of Article 77 (2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Frontex’s governing body is the Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri, and his now three deputies. Leggeri is, according to the current Regulation 2019/1896, „completely independent in the performance of his or her duties“ from the other EU institutions as well as from the member states. He may „neither seek nor take instructions from any government or from any other body“. This also applies to the agency as such, which „should be independent as regards operational and technical matters and have legal, administrative and financial autonomy“. „EU law: No one can stop Frontex“ weiterlesen

Predicting crime and profiling: Europol and Frontex turn to artificial intelligence

The EU police agency will soon receive a new regulation that will allow sensitive personal data to be used for research purposes. Corresponding projects are already underway. As early as next year, the EU border agency wants to use an AI-based lie detector for immigration control.

The European police agency Europol has existed in The Hague since 1999. Its tasks include the storage and processing of data generated in the course of police investigations. Europol has set up a comprehensive Europol Information System (EIS) for this purpose, which currently contains around 1.3 million objects and 250,000 persons. It is filled by police forces from EU member states using a „data loader“ in an automated procedure. In addition, the agency operates files on various crime areas in so-called analysis projects, including, for example, terrorism, organised crime, cybercrime or drug-related crime.

Europol is only competent if a crime that has been committed or is suspected of being committed affects two or more member states. In this case, however, the agency may also process information on contact persons, witnesses or victims of a crime. This data is processed by a software that searches for so-called cross-matches. Europol hopes that this search for connections between crimes or perpetrators will lead to new investigative approaches. „Predicting crime and profiling: Europol and Frontex turn to artificial intelligence“ weiterlesen

Behavioural analysis and Twitter check: EU security research tests new „lie detector“ for border control

The EU Court of Justice is to decide how extensively the Commission must inform about a research project sensitive to fundamental rights. The decision is of great significance, because the successor to iBorderCtrl, which has long been terminated, is also problematic.

Last week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg heard a case on the disclosure of the EU security research projec iBorderCtrl. It was supposed to develop a system for quick and easy border control. Travellers are thereby screened for suspicious behaviour with a risk analysis. It is not known how the platform will implement this in concrete terms. That is why MEP Patrick Breyer, who sits in the Brussels Parliament for the Pirate Party, has sued the EU Commission for more transparency.

From 2023, the EU will put into operation a „Travel Information and Authorisation System“ (ETIAS) in which entries must be declared before crossing the border. This affects all third-country nationals, even if they do not require a visa. iBorderCtrl is one of the projects that should develop or improve individual components of the ETIAS. This includes the fusion and analysis of as much traveller data as possible. „Behavioural analysis and Twitter check: EU security research tests new „lie detector“ for border control“ weiterlesen

EU has spent over 300 million on surveillance with drones in four years

Unmanned systems have been flying regularly for the European Union’s agencies since 2017. Now, member states are also receiving funding for drones at their external borders. Soon, remote-controlled patrol boats could be deployed.

The EU Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has published a new call for unmanned surveillance of European maritime areas. A company is being sought via the European tendering platform „Ted“ to carry out an initial 2,300 flight hours with larger drones for 20 million Euros. They are to operate in a radius of at least 500 kilometres and remain in the air for more than ten hours. According to the plans, the drones will operate without a runway. This should make it possible to decide quickly and flexibly on their deployment to an operational area.

With the new order, the EU Commission has spent at least 308 million Euros on the use of drones since 2017. That does not include research and development of drone services. A study presented in 2014 by the British non-governmental organisation Statewatch, for example, put this at around 500 million euros. „EU has spent over 300 million on surveillance with drones in four years“ weiterlesen

Artificial intelligence: Frontex improves its maritime surveillance

Frontex wants to use a new platform to automatically detect and assess „risks“ on the seas of the European Union. Suspected irregular activities are to be displayed in a constantly updated „threat map“ with the help of self-learning software.

The EU border agency has renewed a contract with Israeli company Windward for a „maritime analytics“ platform. It will put the application into regular operation. Frontex had initially procured a licence for around 800,000 Euros. For now 2.6 million Euros, the agency will receive access for four workstations. The contract can be extended three times for one year at a time.

Windward specialises in the digital aggregation and assessment of vessel tracking and maritime surveillance data. Investors in the company, which was founded in 2011, include former US CIA director David Petraeus and former CEO’s of Thomson Reuters and British Petroleum. The former chief of staff of the Israeli military, Gabi Ashkenazi, is considered one of the advisors. „Artificial intelligence: Frontex improves its maritime surveillance“ weiterlesen

Spain wants to station its gendarmerie in Gibraltar

Frontex should actually control the new EU external borders at the Rock of Gibraltar. According to an EU paper, however, the Guardia Civil will take over border tasks there for the first time. In addition to maritime surveillance, this concerns queries of the Schengen Information System or the new EU travel register ETIAS and the imposition of entry bans into the British exclave.

Literally at the last minute, the European Commission and the UK have agreed on a post-Brexit deal. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded on 31 December regulates numerous aspects of future coexistence. Among other things, fishing quotas, but also the uncontrolled border crossing between the British Northern Ireland and the EU member Ireland were disputed until the end.

Brexit also has far-reaching effects on Gibraltar. However, the overseas territory, which has belonged to Great Britain for over 300 years, appears in the agreement exactly once: According to the final provisions, its regulations „shall neither apply to Gibraltar nor have any effects in that territory“. The small town at the Rock is therefore also not part of the EU Customs Union and the Schengen area. Spain would thus have had to introduce border controls on goods and people from Gibraltar from 1 January 2021. This is a major problem in the region, as every day around 15,000 people commute from Spain to work at the crossing in the small town of La Linea to the much richer Gibraltar. „Spain wants to station its gendarmerie in Gibraltar“ 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

SIS 3.0: Thousands of new authorities use the Schengen Information System

After police, customs and immigration offices, numerous non-police authorities are now connected to Europe’s largest database for security purposes. All Schengen states now have to implement three new regulations. Surprisingly, there is resistance in Switzerland. In the end, the country may even leave the network.

With the implementation of three new regulations, some 2,000 additional German federal, state and local authorities will be connected to the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This is what the German Ministry of the Interior wrote in its response to a minor enquiry in August this year. At that time, it was said that „no reliable estimate could be made“ of the number of new authorised persons. In a new answer, the Ministry is now becoming more specific. „SIS 3.0: Thousands of new authorities use the Schengen Information System“ weiterlesen