Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe

The agencies EMSA and Frontex have spent more than €300 million on drone services since 2016. The Mediterranean in particular is becoming a testing track for further projects.

According to the study „Eurodrones Inc.“ presented by Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer for Statewatch seven years ago, the European Commission had already spent over €315 million at that time to investigate the use of drones for border surveillance. These efforts focused on capabilities of member states and their national contact centres for EUROSUR. The border surveillance system, managed by Frontex in Warsaw, became operational in 2014 – initially only in some EU Member States.

The Statewatch study also documented in detail the investments made by the Defence Agency (EDA) in European drone research up to 2014. More than €190 million in funding for drones on land, at sea and in the air has flowed since the EU military agency was founded. 39 projects researched technologies or standards to make the unmanned systems usable for civilian and military purposes. „Unmanned surveillance for Fortress Europe“ weiterlesen

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

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

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 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

North and Baltic Sea: German authority orders EU drone surveillance

In several projects, the German Federal Police is testing drones in maritime environments. So far, the unmanned aircrafts have to fly in restricted areas, but soon they could be integrated into civil airspace. The Ministry of Transportation, which responsible for this, is now asking the European Union to provide drone flights.

The German Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) has requested drone flights from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). In coordination with the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), to which the BSH is accountable. The BMVI is now providing details in its response to a parliamentary question.

Accordingly, it is a three-month test phase which is intended to supplement the BSH’s ship exhaust gas measurement network. The authority will use it to examine the gas plumes of passing ships and calculate the fuel sulfur content, which in Germany may only contain 0.1 percent.The drones should also map tidal flats and shallow water areas. The ministry is not writing whether this is done for the construction of further offshore facilities. „North and Baltic Sea: German authority orders EU drone surveillance“ weiterlesen