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 Belgium and Great Britain, the 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

Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large drones

Last week, the EU Border Agency decided on the multi-year deployment of large drones in the Mediterranean, now Italy is following suit. The contractors have already carried out tests for Frontex over the past two years.

The Italian Ministry of the Interior is providing €7.2 million for the operation of drones in the central Mediterranean. The police and the financial police, who is also responsible for border security, will use the unmanned aerial vehicles by day and night against irregular migration from countries such as Libya and Tunisia. The EU Commission is funding 50% of the procurement with money from the Internal Security Fund.

The contract was apparently awarded to the Italian arms company Leonardo. The firm is to provide up to 1,800 flight hours for an initial year. The drones will be stationed at the Sicilian airports of Trapani, Lampedusa or Ragusa. The Ministry of the Interior demands a deployment radius of about 550 kilometres. The contract has an initial term of one year and can be extended twice. „Italy and Frontex now monitor the Mediterranean Sea with large drones“ weiterlesen

Frontex has a weapon problem

According to the new regulation, a total of 1,500 forces are to be located directly at Frontex. This is the first time that the European Union is commanding a police corps with a common uniform. However, there is no legal basis for the planned acquisition of weapons, ammunition and „non-lethal equipment“.

By 2027 the EU Border Agency wants to establish a „Standing Corps“ of 10,000 border police officers. The personnel, almost two-thirds of which are to be recruited by next year, is divided into four categories. 3,000 additional „Category 1“ officers are to be directly subordinated to the agency’s headquarters in Warsaw. At present there are about 1,500 employees working there, most of them are not uniformed. In order to be able to grow up, Frontex is moving its headquarters in 2024 to a new building, also erected in the Polish capital.

With 1,500 officers, the „long-term“ deployment forces in „Category 2“ represent a comparatively small part of the „permanent reserve“. These are personnel from the Member States who are seconded to Frontex for at least 24 months. The German Federal Police will initially deploy 61 police officers, later it is planned to increase to 225. Frontex wants to mobilize 5,500 officers from the Member States for short-term deployments in „Category 3“, and another 1,500 in the „Reserve for Immediate Action“ in „Category 4“. Here the agency will draw on the existing „Rapid Border Intervention Teams“, which have so far only been deployed in Greece. „Frontex has a weapon problem“ weiterlesen

Shipowners are not allowed to bring refugees back to Libya

The disembarkation of rescued refugees in Libya is punishable under German law, including for merchant ships. This is documented by a Bundestag assessment. However, the Foreign Office and the public prosecutors are not interested in pursuing captains and shipowners

The central Mediterranean is probably one of the best monitored sea areas in the world. The border agency Frontex runs the border police operation „Themis“ there, the External Action Service is responsible for the military operation „EUNAVFOR MED“. In addition to large and small aircraft and ships, submarines, drones and satellite surveillance are used. In addition, NATO is also stationed in the Mediterranean with its „Sea Guardian“ mission an its „Standing NATO Maritime Group“. „Shipowners are not allowed to bring refugees back to Libya“ weiterlesen

After Albania and Montenegro, Frontex now plans mission in Serbia

After Albania, the EU Border Agency has started an operation in Montenegro. The mission at the Croatian land border is to be extended to the sea borders. A status agreement with northern Macedonia is about to be signed, negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina are continuing.

On 15 July the EU border agency Frontex launched a new operation in Montenegro. After Albania, this is the second long-term operation in a third country outside the European Union. It follows the conclusion of a status agreement which came into force in July. It is led by the Montenegrin Border Police, Frontex provides support in terms of personnel, equipment and coordination of joint activities.The area of operation is the land border with Croatia. The government in Zagreb was therefore involved in drawing up the operation plan in accordance with Article 74 of Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 on the European Border and Coast Guard. „After Albania and Montenegro, Frontex now plans mission in Serbia“ 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