War in Ethiopia: Armed drones could be again a gamechanger

In a surprise move, the Ethiopian military was able to stop the advance of attacking Tigray rebels on the capital, according to international media reports, with the help of armed drones. Allegedly „Bayraktar TB2“ ordered in Turkey have not been sighted anywhere so far. However, competitors from China and Iran have been documented.

Ethiopia has been in a civil war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for 14 months. The rebels from the region bordering Eritrea are discontent with the policies of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. After taking office in April 2018, the 43-year-old lifted the state of emergency, released prisoners and promised to fight corruption. As a result, the TPLF, which had been powerful until then, also lost political influence.

Only a few weeks ago, the Tigrinese rebels were on the verge of entering the capital Addis Ababa, but the tide has now turned decisively. On 20 December, the TPLF surprisingly announced a ceasefire and peace talks in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and promised to withdraw back to the north. Both warring parties are accused of serious human rights violations, and the UN Human Rights Council now wants a to investigate this with an independent commission. „War in Ethiopia: Armed drones could be again a gamechanger“ weiterlesen

EU development aid: Italy is gifting more surveillance technology to the Libyan coastguard

With a mobile maritime monitoring centre, EU member states hope to improve the migration deterrence of authorities in Libya. The delivery with an Italian warship is also a signal to Turkey.

Libya has received new technology for monitoring the Mediterranean Sea from Italy. The equipment, financed with EU funds, is installed in containers and was brought to Tripoli by the „San Giorgio“ helicopter carrier. The daily newspaper „Repubblica“ describes the transfer as a „covert operation“. However, it is the long-announced delivery of a mobile Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC).

It is being financed from development aid funds within the framework of the EU project „Support to Integrated Border and Migration Management in Libya“ (SIBMMIL). In a first phase, the EU had approved €46 million from the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa for this purpose, followed by another €15 million in 2018. With this money, the EU wants to equip the Libyan coast guard for better migration deterrence. „EU development aid: Italy is gifting more surveillance technology to the Libyan coastguard“ 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

Negotiations on the Europol Regulation: Will there be a „European FBI“ by the end of the year?

Europol is to be allowed to carry out „discreet“ manhunts and request large amounts of data from private companies, using „artificial intelligence“. In addition, the police agency coordinates special units and cooperated with foreign secret services.

The European Parliament, the Commission and the Council today began the so-called trilogue procedure for a new Europol regulation. The police agency with its headquarters in The Hague could receive significantly more competences. It is stipulated, for example, that Europol coordinates the special police units of the member states in the ATLAS network, reports any criminal conduct within Europol’s competence to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and supports the member states in responding to cyber attacks.

A corresponding proposal to amend the current regulation was presented by the Commission last December. The main changes are named in the title of the legislative text: It is about Europol’s cooperation with private parties, the increased processing of personal data and the role in research and innovation. „Negotiations on the Europol Regulation: Will there be a „European FBI“ by the end of the year?“ weiterlesen

Missiles and sensors: German technology for the Turkish drone war

Turkey’s best-selling armed drone is equipped with cameras from German company Hensoldt, a spokesperson confirms. The device could guide missiles developed with German help to a target. The government in Berlin also has a stake in the defence company. Turkey uses the drones for attacks that violate international law.

For almost two decades, companies from the USA and Israel were the undisputed market leaders for armed drones, but now China and Turkey can count more and more exports in their favour. The Turkish „Bayraktar TB2“, which has been used by the government in Ankara since 2016 in the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi parts of Kurdistan in violation of international law, is particularly attracting attention. In the four-month Operation Olive Branch in Kurdish Rojava alone, the „TB2“ is said to have scored 449 direct hits and enabled fighter planes or helicopters in 680 occasions to do so.

The drone with a payload of 65 kilograms is manufactured by Baykar; its namesake and founder is Selçuk Bayraktar, who is now also the son-in-law of the Turkish president. The „TB2“ has also flown attacks on enemy troops for the Tripoli government in Libya and on behalf of Azerbaijan; it may even have been decisive in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. After Qatar, Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkmenistan, Baykar is to sell the drone as the first NATO country to Poland, interest is also reportedly coming from Lithuania. „Missiles and sensors: German technology for the Turkish drone war“ 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

„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military

Authorities in the European Union use biometric data and crime scene evidence from Iraq and Syria to process war crimes, secretly track suspects and control migration. Now the procedure is to be extended to African countries.

After a meeting of EU interior and defence ministers in 2017, authorities in member states have been using so-called „battlefield information“ to fight terrorism. In this way, the authorities want to identify and detect „foreign fighters“ when they cross an external EU border. The procedure is to be expanded, the EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove is therefore calling on governments to engage in a „regular dialogue with their military forces and relevant intelligence and security services“. This is according to two documents posted online by the British civil liberties organisation Statewatch.

„Battlefield information“ comes from countries such as Syria or Iraq, where the „Global Coalition against Daesh“ has been operating militarily since 2014. The intelligence is usually collected there by military secret services. Their dissemination and use goes back to „Operation Gallant Phoenix“, an initiative of the US government. It has a secretariat in Jordan and involves military and intelligence services from 27 Western and Arab states as well as their police authorities. „„Battlefield information“: EU police to cooperate more closely with secret services and military“ weiterlesen

Greece: EU Commission upgrades border surveillance – and criticises it at the same time

The Greek border police are using a sound cannon and drones on a new border fence, and the EU Commission expresses its „concern“ about this. However, it is itself funding several similar research projects, including a semi-autonomous drone with stealth features for „effective surveillance of borders and migration flows“

On Monday, the Associated Press (AP) news agency had reported that police in Greece plan to deploy a long-range sound cannon at the external border with Turkey in the future. The device, mounted on a police tank, makes a deafening noise with the volume of a jet engine. It is part of a system of steel walls that is being installed and tested along with drones on the 200-kilometre border with Turkey for migration defence. The vehicle, made by the Canadian manufacturer Streit, comes from a series of seized „Typhoons“ that were to be illegally exported to Libya via Dubai.

After the AP report about the sound cannons went viral, Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz had clarified that it was not an EU project. „Greece: EU Commission upgrades border surveillance – and criticises it at the same time“ weiterlesen

Erdoğan son-in-law wants to equip world’s first drone carrier

After Turkey’s exclusion from the F35 programme, the fighter jets on the aircraft carrier „Anadolu“ could be replaced by armed drones.

Turkey could be the first country in the world to have an aircraft carrier with combat drones. The ship in question is the „TCG Anadolu“, which is to be launched next year. Ideas for this have been around for a while. Now Selçuk Bayraktar, founder of the drone company Baykar Defence and later son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has given details for the first time in an online event of the Aerospace Summit of Turkey’s Gebze University. According to this, the ship could be equipped with a successor version of the well-known drone „Bayraktar TB2“.

The „Anadolu“ is a copy of the Spanish „Juan Carlos“, which with a length of 232 metres and a displacement of around 27,000 tonnes is one of the lightweight aircraft carriers. The contract for the construction was awarded to a consortium of the manufacturer Navantia and the Turkish company Sedef, in whose shipyard the ship is currently being built under licence. Turkey thus becomes the fourth maritime power in the Mediterranean with an aircraft carrier after France, Italy and Spain. „Erdoğan son-in-law wants to equip world’s first drone carrier“ 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