Under Spanish leadership: EU military develops novel police drone

Several defence ministries are participating in a project on „dual-use“ reconnaissance drones. Only the Spanish army reveals that they can also be armed for military use.

EU member states want to develop drones with „autonomous behaviours“ that can be used for civilian and military purposes. These „dual-use“ aircraft are to weigh around 150 kilograms and do not require a runway. Accordingly, they could also be flown by law enforcement and disaster control agencies as well as civilian rescue organisations for aerial observation. The military wants to use them with the army, the air force and the navy.

The project is called „Next Generation Small RPAS“ (NGSR) and is part of the Permanent Structured Cooperation agreed by the European Council in December 2017. With the exception of Denmark and Malta, all EU Member States participate in what is also known as PESCO. The initiative aims to improve military cooperation between member states. To this end, the governments commit to increasing their defence spending and investing more money in joint research and development projects. „Under Spanish leadership: EU military develops novel police drone“ weiterlesen

EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?

For the first time, drones are flying on behalf of an EU agency with rescue equipment on board. On the high seas, the actually useful technology could encourage illegal refoulements to countries like Libya. Perhaps the new function will only be used for minor maritime emergencies in European waters.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has awarded a new €30 million contract for drone services. It has gone to the Portuguese company Tekever, which is flying an „AR5“ for EMSA since 2016. Reconnaissance missions of this fixed-wing drone are carried out for coast guards of the Schengen member states, that have to submit a corresponding request to the agency for this purpose. According to the tender, the EMSA drones are also to monitor the Mediterranean Sea within the framework of missions of the border agency Frontex.

Tekever equips the „AR5“ with radars, day and night cameras as well as receivers for signals from ships or emergency systems. They can stay in the air for more than 12 hours. In Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, among others, the „AR5s“ have completed more than 1,200 flight hours in almost 250 missions, including surveillance and safety at sea, detecting pollution or combating illegal fishing. „EU drones for people in distress: Dropping life rafts for pullbacks?“ weiterlesen

Artificial Intelligence: EU Presidency against blanket ban on real-time facial recognition

While the EU Commission wants to regulate AI applications for police and justice, the current Council Presidency is in favour of as few restrictions as possible. The processing of facial images from public spaces is becoming a bone of contention.

The Portuguese EU Presidency is questioning a blanket ban on artificial intelligence (AI) for facial recognition in public spaces. The Commission had presented such a proposal on 21 April, but also named a number of exceptions and associated obligations.

In a discussion paper distributed to the member states, this approach is now criticised by the Council. Instead, it is according to the Presidency „essential to ensure that we are not not unnecessarily limiting the development and use of technological development“. The police and judicial use of AI must be „be practical, useful and improve the efficiency with which law enforcement authorities work“. „Artificial Intelligence: EU Presidency against blanket ban on real-time facial recognition“ weiterlesen

EU Council and Commission: New roadmap for access to encryption

The Portuguese Presidency is calling for an EU-wide regulation on access to encrypted content by police and judiciary. This should also affect device manufacturers. Failure to comply could result in companies being banned from doing business in the EU.

The European Union is to adopt a legal framework on decryption in the near future so that authorities can access „lawfully relevant data“. This was written by the Portuguese EU Council Presidency in a Communication which also presents a roadmap for this purpose. An important milestone is a proposal for „way forward“, which the EU Commission will prepare by 2022.

The paper from Portugal has been coordinated with the previous German and the upcoming Slovenian EU Presidencies. The German Ministry of the Interior had taken a new initiative against end-to-end encryption at the start of this so-called trio presidency and adopted a Resolution and Conclusions on the implementation of decryption capabilities. It states that the member states themselves should decide on the methods they use. „EU Council and Commission: New roadmap for access to encryption“ weiterlesen

Strategic Compass: Secret services help determine EU’s military course

Member states‘ foreign and defence ministries are today discussing future European Union military capabilities, including how to respond to „cyber threats“. The fodder for this „Strategic Dialogue“ comes from the domestic and foreign intelligence services. MEPs are not allowed to see any of the top-secret documents.

The EU member states are working on new guidelines for the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). These are to be summarised in a „Strategic Compass“, on the basis of which concrete measures and operations will then be decided. In this way, the governments are further expanding the initially rather defensive „EU Global Strategy“.

The Global Strategy adopted in 2016 envisages that the European Union will increase its arms expenditure and the number of its military missions. With the legally controversial Defence Fund and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the proposals were implemented in a relatively short time. PESCO defines concrete measures for research and development of military systems, including „cyber defence and response“, „reconnaissance and space“ and drones at sea, on land and in the air. „Strategic Compass: Secret services help determine EU’s military course“ weiterlesen

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

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 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. 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 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. „EU has spent over €300 million on surveillance with drones in four years“ 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