First deployment on the edge of a war zone: EU sends Frontex to Moldova

In just a few days, the Republic of Moldova could command units of the EU border force, the deployment is already being prepared. However, a status agreement currently being negotiated with the government in Chisinau would have to exclude operations in Transnistria, where Russia has stationed military forces.

The EU Commission and the member states in the Council want to conclude a so-called status agreement with the government of the Republic of Moldova in an urgent procedure. Subsequently, the EU border agency Frontex is to send units for „migration management“ to the border with Ukraine there. This is according to the Commission’s press release of yesterday, Thursday.

Both the Commission and the Council are working at full speed on the planned deployment, and only yesterday the ambassadors of all EU member states were informed about it in a special meeting. Before negotiations for a status agreement with Moldova can begin, the Council must give the Commission a mandate to that effect. The Commission has submitted a proposal for this in an urgent procedure. „First deployment on the edge of a war zone: EU sends Frontex to Moldova“ weiterlesen

Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time

The border agency in Warsaw could deploy drones, vessels and personnel. It would be the first mission in a country that does not directly border the EU. Mauretania might be next.

As a „priority third state“ in West Africa, Senegal has long been a partner for migration-related security cooperation with the EU. The government in Dakar is one of the addressees of the „North Africa Operational Partnership“; it also receives technical equipment and advice for border police upgrading from EU development aid funds. Now Brussels is pushing for a Frontex mission in Senegal. To this end, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen travelled personally to the capital Dakar last week. She was accompanied by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, who said that a contract with Senegal might be finalised until summer. For the matter, Johansson met with Senegal’s armed-forces minister and foreign minister.

For operations outside the EU, Frontex needs a so-called status agreement with the country concerned. It regulates, for example, the use of coercive police measures, the deployment of weapons or immunity from criminal and civil prosecution. The Commission will be entrusted with the negotiations for such an agreement with Senegal after the Council has given the mandate. The basis would be a „model status agreement“ drafted by the Commission on the basis of Frontex missions in the Western Balkans. Frontex launched its first mission in a third country in 2019 in Albania, followed by Montenegro in 2020 and Serbia in 2021. „Status agreement with Senegal: Frontex might operate in Africa for the first time“ weiterlesen

Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally

EU agencies advise increased confiscation and extraction of asylum seekers‘ mobile phones and now provide a manual on how to do so. Apps to encrypt or disguise locations are disliked in the report as „countermeasures“ to surveillance.

Often the mobile phones they carry are the only connection between refugees and their relatives and friends in their country of origin or elsewhere. They contain contacts, personal communication as well as photos and videos as a memory of the home countries. Only within the European Union is it possible to apply for asylum in its member states. Therefore, the phones are also an indispensable aid for navigating to receiving countries and finding out about conditions and support there.

Asylum seekers‘ mobile phones are also of increasing interest to authorities. As punishment for irregular entry, border guards in Greece and Croatia, and most recently at the EU’s external border with Belarus, destroy them before abandoning their owners at sea or forcibly push them back. Police forces, on the other hand, confiscate the phones in order to gain information about routes used and people helping to flee. „Frontex and Europol: How refugees are tracked digitally“ weiterlesen

Action plan on Afghanistan: Europol to hire evacuated staff from Kabul

A high-ranking EU advisor has drawn up recommendations for the Council and the Commission on how to deal with evacuees and refugees from Afghanistan. The focus is on more cooperation with secret services and NATO.

The European Union’s anti-terrorism coordinator proposes 22 measures for dealing with Afghan refugees. An action plan, published by the British organisation Statewatch, addresses the four areas of security controls, strategic intelligence, countering propaganda as well as terrorist financing.

The recommendations by the Belgian Gilles de Kerchove are based on a declaration by the EU interior ministers on 31 August. There, flight and migration from Afghanistan are seen primarily as a security problem. „Action plan on Afghanistan: Europol to hire evacuated staff from Kabul“ weiterlesen

German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door

Although this violates EU treaties, the police agency Europol is to cooperate closely with secret services. This involves lists of suspicious persons originating from third countries. The individuals listed there will then be discreetly searched for throughout Europe.

In fact, the European Union has no competence to coordinate the secret services of the Member States. In the case of Germany, this would also violate the principle of separating the tasks of police and services. Nevertheless, the German EU Presidency is now for the first time pushing for operational cooperation coordinated by Europol.

The German proposal for a „coordinated approach“ deals with covert searches for persons under Article 36 of the SIS II Council Decision, which are based on lists of secret services such as the USA, but also from North Africa or the Western Balkans. They are to be entered into the Schengen Information System (SIS II), to which third countries do not have access. Only the 26 EU Member States involved, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland may issue such alerts. „German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door“ weiterlesen

EU opens its biggest database for secret services from third countries

In the Schengen Information System, police and secret services may, inter alia, issue alerts for secret monitoring. Authorities from non-EU states can now have searches carried out via a detour. The German government remains silent about the exact role of its own secret service.

The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the largest European database, which has been used for 25 years by border, police, customs or immigration authorities and secret services. Today’s SIS II involves 26 EU Member States (all except Ireland and Cyprus) as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. As of 1 January 2020, more than 90 million people and objects were stored. Most of the entries, which increase every year, come from Italy, followed by France and Germany. The number of searches is also growing rapidly, with almost seven billion of them reported last year. That is about 220 searches per second.

Each Member State is responsible for the accuracy of its entries and must respect deadlines for deletion. Information that is stored in SIS II may also come from third countries, which is part of the normal practice of police forces and secret services. Last year, however, the European Union launched a pilot project to extend these entries to selected „trusted third countries“ and to find a uniform procedure for handling them. „EU opens its biggest database for secret services from third countries“ weiterlesen

Prüm Decision: European criminal police offices agree on face recognition system

The European Union is extending the cross-border query of biometric data to faces. Searches should also be possible with still images from surveillance cameras. Up to now, only individuals may be processed in the Prüm framework, but soon bulk searches could be permitted.

In 2008, the Member States of the European Union signed the EU Prüm Decision. The treaty allows law enforcement authorities to conduct cross-border searches of DNA, fingerprints and data containing vehicles and their owners. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Prüm Decision, the Council had proposed Conclusions to extend this cooperation to facial images.

For the envisaged „Next generation Prüm“ (Prüm.ng), the Commission first ordered a feasibility study from the consulting firm Deloitte. It was submitted last autumn and is being discussed in the relevant Council working groups, but remains secret. The British civil rights organisation Statewatch has published a report by a „focus group on face recognition“ in which ten criminal police offices define, on the basis of the Deloitte study, a technical framework for the comparison of faces. „Prüm Decision: European criminal police offices agree on face recognition system“ weiterlesen

Western Balkans: Clandestine connection to EU databases

Even without imminent EU accession, all third countries in South-East Europe will gradually be connected to European information systems. They will set up a fingerprint database along the lines of the EU model and, as in the Prüm Treaty, will make it possible to query biometric data. Secret services in the Western Balkans also use the Schengen Information System through a back door.

Albania, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro are EU accession candidates, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are considered potential candidate countries. All governments therefore receive so-called Pre-accession Assistance for the development of police and border police capabilities. They are based on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement that the countries have concluded with the EU.

The European Union now wants to significantly expand security cooperation with all the countries of the Western Balkans. One focus is on irregular migration. The governments in South-East Europe have already received 216 million Euros for their control since 2007, and funds of a similar amount have flowed into the construction and operation of camps for refugees. According to a proposal by the Croatian Council Presidency, the Western Balkan governments should now set up a biometric database for refugees. It will be based on the Eurodac database, in which EU member states process the fingerprints of asylum seekers. The two fingerprint systems could then be merged after possible EU accession. In addition to fingerprints, Eurodac also stores facial images, but they are not yet searchable. „Western Balkans: Clandestine connection to EU databases“ weiterlesen