European Court of Justice: Controls at the Schengen borders may not be extended arbitrarily

Some EU members still control their internal borders excessively. However, exceeding the time limit of six months is incompatible with the Schengen Borders Code. Governments and the EU Commission must now react.

The lifting of internal border controls is often praised as the greatest achievement of the European Union. However, especially for migration control, many countries have made use of the possibility of temporary reintroduction and have extended this regulation, sometimes dozens of times. This is contrary to EU law, ruled the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) in Luxembourg last week.

The case was brought by the Austrian citizen N.W., who refused to show his passport at a checkpoint at the Slovenian border in Austria and was ordered to pay a €36 fine for this according to a court ruling. In a second case, W. challenged the judgement. The Regional Administrative Court of Styria therefore referred the matter to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling. Now the courts in Austria have to deal with it again. „European Court of Justice: Controls at the Schengen borders may not be extended arbitrarily“ weiterlesen

Utimaco from Aachen: German wiretapping technology could strengthen junta in Myanmar

With the withdrawal of the Norwegian telephone service provider Telenor from Myanmar, German surveillance technology threatens to end up in the hands of the military regime. This could violate EU sanctions and the General Data Protection Regulation.

The Norwegian company Telenor, which specialises in telecommunications, is selling its business in Myanmar. As has now become known, a surveillance system made by the IT company Utimaco from Aachen could also end up in the hands of the military junta. The Myanmar Now news agency, based in the’s capital of the country, warns of this. Through the back door, EU sanctions would be circumvented and 18 million customers would be put at risk – that is about one third of the population.

On 1 February 2021, the military couped against the democratically elected government under Aung San Suu Kyi, dissolved parliament and declared a state of emergency. The subsequent protests were violently put down, hundreds of people were killed, thousands arrested. Because of „atrocities and serious human rights violations“ against the Rohingya population group, the EU has even extended its sanctions regime. „Utimaco from Aachen: German wiretapping technology could strengthen junta in Myanmar“ 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

Chat control: Schengen states should promote decryption of messengers

The EU Commission is collecting outstanding cases with which it can promote the interception of messengers. Great Britain is going even further.

In six weeks, the European Commission plans to present its proposal for „legislation to effectively combat child sexual abuse“. According to the meeting calendar, this could take place on 2 March as things stand.

Presumably, the package also includes the long-awaited proposal for a regulation to identify, remove and report „illegal online content“ to combat child sexual abuse. Providers of messenger services or chat programmes would be obliged to automatically search their customers‘ communication for relevant material and make it accessible to law enforcement.

Originally, the planned regulation was already announced for spring of last year. The reason for the delay is probably the explosive nature of the law. It also affects encrypted content, including services such as Signal, Threema or Whatsapp. MEP Patrick Breyer has coined the catchword chat control for this forced screening. As with data retention, this is a mass surveillance of all citizens without any reason. „Chat control: Schengen states should promote decryption of messengers“ weiterlesen

Sea rescue in the Aegean: Greek secret service persecutes human rights observers

The government in Athens is targeting organisations and individuals who observe and document human rights violations. An „information management“ agency set up with EU funding is involved in the investigation.

Once again, Greek authorities are striking a blow against European human rights organisations. A total of ten people from different countries are alleged to have facilitated the „illegal entry of foreigners“ in the Aegean Sea since June 2020. This was announced by the police at a press conference last Monday. Those involved are also accused of espionage as well as „impeding investigations“. Some of them are also said to have violated immigration law. However, no arrests or searches have been made so far.

The investigations are targeting members of four different organisations working on the islands of Chios, Samos and Lesvos to monitor human rights, as well as six other persons. According to the pro-government newspaper „Kathimerini“, the Norwegian organisation Aegean Boat Report is among those affected. „Sea rescue in the Aegean: Greek secret service persecutes human rights observers“ weiterlesen

Schengen Information System: Largest European police database now with Ireland

Presumably because of the Corona pandemic, queries to Europe’s largest wanted persons database have dropped drastically. Irish authorities now also participate in the system, but are only allowed to process about a third of the wanted persons entered there.

On Monday, Ireland joined the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This makes the Republic a participant in the largest and most widely used information system in Europe. The SIS II was set up in 1995 partly to compensate for the removal of internal border controls. Another purpose of the system is to improve „internal security“.

In the SIS II, the authorities involved can enter searches for persons and objects. By far the largest part, with about 87 million entries, concerns vehicles or documents reported as lost or stolen. As of 1 January, according to the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, 933,061 persons were listed in the SIS II. After Brexit, around 37,000 UK-registered persons and 4.6 million objects were deleted on 31 December. „Schengen Information System: Largest European police database now with Ireland“ weiterlesen

Privileged third country: EU security cooperation with Great Britain after Brexit

British authorities continue to participate in many EU instruments in the area of justice and home affairs, and cooperation in some cases even goes further than with the Schengen states Norway, Iceland or Switzerland. The exit from Europol and the Schengen Information System could strengthen the secret services.

With its withdrawal from the European Union, the UK will have left the „European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice“ as of 1 January 2021, and the country will become a third country from the EU’s perspective. This will also end cooperation within the framework of the Schengen Agreement. The government in London will lose its place as one of the most important partners in the EU security architecture. The loss of participation in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) will probably weigh heavily in the UK. In 2019, British police forces and intelligence services had around 37,000 persons and 4.5 million objects stored there. Many covert Article 36 alerts, which allow police and domestic intelligence to track the movements of wanted persons across the EU, also originated in the UK.

However, British authorities are to be allowed to continue to participate in important EU information systems in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and also to cooperate with agencies. These are the provisions of the provisional „EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement“ (TCA), which the parties negotiated at the last minute before the turn of the year. „Privileged third country: EU security cooperation with Great Britain after Brexit“ 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

Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol

Germany uses its EU Presidency to reorganise digital surveillance in Europe. A 5G working group temporarily set up by the BKA is now being consolidated at Europol. It is to coordinate the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States and facilitate interception through new legislative proposals.

The German Presidency of the EU Council wants to set up a Europe-wide working group on the interception of telecommunications by police forces and secret services. This emerges from a document put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. The „Permanent Group of the Heads of Interception Units“ is to consist of the departments responsible in several Member States.

With this initiative, the German Government wants to improve the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States. However, a central office for interception of telecommunications located at the European Union is probably not adressed, as this would be contrary to the EU treaties. Europol could, however, take on an intermediary role, as it does in the cross-border tracking of GPS transmitters, and ensure that in cross-border investigations different authorities do not monitor the same telephone lines. „Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol“ weiterlesen

Secret document: „Club de Berne“ criticises member in Austria for possible extremism

An audit report of the „Club de Berne“ finds serious deficiencies in the Austrian domestic intelligence service. Its IT systems were not approved for secret information. The authority should also ensure that it is not infiltrated by „extremist organisations“.

The Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT) is regarded as a security gap for European intelligence cooperation. This is the conclusion reached by the European „Club de Berne“ in an audit report. The document classified as „secret“ was leaked to the daily newspaper „Österreich“ and published.

Following an intervention by the government in Vienna, however, the editorial staff took essential parts offline again, and the public prosecutor’s office is now investigating for „treason of state secrets“. Netzpolitik.org was able to inspect the report, the authenticity of which was confirmed by the current Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Peschorn. It contains 156 „observations“, „recommendations“, „advice“ and „expectations“. „Secret document: „Club de Berne“ criticises member in Austria for possible extremism“ weiterlesen