Secret aerial surveillance: What does an hour’s flight with a Frontex drone cost?

With a new regulation, the EU border agency has set up its own aerial surveillance with aircraft. With the arrival of drones, migration control with the „Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance“ has become much more effective, but presumably also more expensive.

For more than a year, the EU border agency has stationed an Israeli Heron 1 long-range drone in Malta, and another drone now patrols the airspace around the Greek island of Crete. Frontex, however, does not want to disclose how much money a flight hour costs. Thus, it cannot be compared whether the drones are more expensive than manned aircraft on behalf of Frontex, as suspected.

With a new regulation, Frontex received permission in 2016 to purchase its own equipment. Immediately, the agency began leasing charter aircraft for aerial surveillance as part of a „Multipurpose Aerial Surveillance“ (MAS). This made Frontex independent of borrowing planes and helicopters, which previously had to be requested from EU Member States in the framework of Agency missions. „Secret aerial surveillance: What does an hour’s flight with a Frontex drone cost?“ weiterlesen

Resignations over „Predator“ spyware scandal in Greece

The Greek secret service spied on at least one journalist, today its head resigned. In addition, the prime minister’s secretary-general quit his post. The affair reaches the EU level after a current MEP was also spied on.

The Greek wiretapping affair involving the „Predator“ spy programme is widening. According to media reports, Grigoris Dimitriadis, the Secretary General of the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, resigned today. Today, his office writes that the head of the secret service, Panagiotis Kontoleon, has also submitted his resignation.

The association „Reporters United“ had previously reported how a network of companies with the participation of Dimitriadis was making money from state operations of the spyware. Intellexa, the company that distributes „Predator“ in Greece, is part of this. The revelation is also explosive because the two are relatives: The Secretary General is the nephew of the Prime Minister, who in turn is directly responsible for the secret service as a user of „Predator“. „Resignations over „Predator“ spyware scandal in Greece“ weiterlesen

Following airplanes and drones: Frontex wants helicopters for border surveillance

The EU border agency wants to repeat a failed tender to procure rotary-wing aircraft. These could be used in areas where there is a lack of runways. The scenarios fit a Greek border river where many dead bodies wash up.

The European border agency Frontex is sticking to plans to add helicopters to its fleet of aircraft. A failed tender is to be made up this year, and procurement could then take place next year. This is what the new Frontex director Aija Kalnaja writes in her answer to a parliamentary question by MEP Özlem Demirel. Accordingly, the rotorcraft are to fly in operational areas where there is a lack of suitable landing sites for aircraft and drones.

Frontex had already targeted a three-million-euro framework contract for helicopter services across Europe two years ago. The helicopters were part of a tender for long- and medium-range flights with manned aircraft, on which Frontex planned to spend another €100 million. They were to be used in land and sea operations, Frontex wrote, „even if they are more oriented on the land domain.“ „Following airplanes and drones: Frontex wants helicopters for border surveillance“ weiterlesen

Frontex and Europol: EU agencies with surveillance program

After secret data collection on migrants, Frontex hires 250 new officers to profile travelers

Europol, the Hague-based EU police agency, is tasked with investigating criminals and preventing imminent crimes. Europol can coordinate investigations if they involve two or more EU member states and stores information in its own databases to do so. For several years, the border agency Frontex has also been collecting data on persons suspected of committing cross-border crimes and forwarding it to Europol. The medium „Balkan Insights,“ „Spiegel“ and other international press reported on this last week after a joint investigation. However, Frontex, which was once established in Warsaw to monitor and control borders, does not have a sufficient mandate for this. „Frontex and Europol: EU agencies with surveillance program“ weiterlesen

Mediterranean Sea: Frontex claims to have detected 13,000 refugees with drones

After in Malta, the EU border agency is now stationing a long-range drone on Crete. There is contradictory information on the surveillance technology on board.

According to its own figures, Frontex has detected at least 13,000 refugees in 300 cases with the help of long-range drones and reported them to the responsible coast guards. Since May last year, the EU border agency has stationed a Heron 1 from the Israeli arms company IAI in Malta for such missions. The drone is officially registered to the Maltese Air Force.

The contract for Frontex drones was awarded to the German branch of the Airbus Group in Bremen, which also flies four Heron 1s for the German armed forces in Mali. They are controlled from a mobile facility located at the international airport near the Maltese capital Valletta. Other Airbus technicians are responsible for maintenance and repairs there. „Mediterranean Sea: Frontex claims to have detected 13,000 refugees with drones“ weiterlesen

Predator by Cytrox: Spyware discovered on phone of Greek journalist

A committee of enquiry in the EU Parliament is to look into the use of mercenary spyware against opposition members and media workers in Europe. German clients could also be in the spotlight, according to an analysis by the Meta Group.

On 10 March, the European Parliament decided to set up a committee of enquiry into the Pegasus trojan programme, which met for its constituent session yesterday. Background to the case are the known operations of the spying software produced by the Israeli NSO Group against opposition members and journalists in Hungary and Poland. The company claims to have sold its tools to almost all European countries, reports the New Yorker magazine.

The investigation, which goes by the acronym „PEGA“, involves members of parliament who were themselves intercepted by the NSO spying software, including Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont. This „CatalanGate“ was made public by the Canadian research group Citizen Lab at the start of „PEGA“. The EU Commission was also investigated with the trojan. „Predator by Cytrox: Spyware discovered on phone of Greek journalist“ 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

Frontex has air superiority

With its aerial surveillance, from space and soon possibly from the stratosphere, the EU border agency is becoming a quasi-secret service

Twice in the past six years, the EU has drastically expanded Frontex’s powers. In 2016, the agency was allowed to purchase its own equipment, and first began leasing its own aircraft. As a „Frontex Aerial Surveillance Service“ (FASS), they observe the central Mediterranean, the so-called Balkan route and the Aegean. Frontex is thus saying goodbye to the principle of always borrowing personnel and equipment for its missions from the member states.This gives the agency considerably more creative power with less control over its activities at the same time.

The FASS flights can be requested by any EU member state with an external border. The decision whether to deploy lies with Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri. Italy first made use of this in 2017, followed by the first deployment at a land border in Croatia in 2018. In the meantime, FASS aircraft are also flying in Montenegro, Greece and other countries. „Frontex has air superiority“ weiterlesen

EU and NATO: Military, police, secret services against migration as „hybrid threat“

Since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU Commission and the Council intertwined internal and external security and thus closer cooperate with NATO. In 2015, a fighting word was created for this, which is being positioned against disinformation, cyber attacks and migration.

Several thousand refugees have attempted to cross the Belarusian border with Lithuania and Poland in recent weeks, subsequently seeking asylum in countries such as Germany. The two Eastern European states have responded by hastily erecting fences and a martial, including military, build-up. Lithuania was the first EU state to activate the European Crisis Reaction Mechanism (IPCR) in the area of migration. Poland is relying solely on measures without EU involvement, even though Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sees „Europe, our common house“ in danger. Great Britain and Estonia are therefore offering to send troops to the government in Warsaw.

Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refer to migrants as a „weapon“. This framing is echoed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who threatens that the Washington administration will keep up the pressure on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as long as Belarus is „undermining peace and security in Europe „. On Thursday, G7 countries also showed solidarity with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, condemning „this provocative use of irregular migration as a hybrid tactic“. „EU and NATO: Military, police, secret services against migration as „hybrid threat““ weiterlesen

Pistols and ammunition: Frontex chooses weapons manufacturer from Austria

With a „Standing Corps“, the European Union has a uniformed and armed police unit for the first time. Whether Frontex is allowed to buy, store and transport weapons at all, however, is controversial. A planned loan agreement with Greece has not yet materialised.

The European border agency Frontex is equipping its new „Standing Corps“ with firearms from the Austrian arms manufacturer Glock. The company is supplying 2,500 9×19 mm semi-automatic pistols, according to the procurement portal for pan-European tenders, and will receive €3.76 million. The contract, initially concluded for a period of four years, can be extended several times. Glock must guarantee the availability and supply of all parts offered for at least 15 years.

The weapons are supplied with the usual accessories, including additional magazines, holsters, attachable torches, tool kits and cleaning kits. A framework contract also includes training for Frontex shooters and their trainers. „Pistols and ammunition: Frontex chooses weapons manufacturer from Austria“ weiterlesen