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Dutch Review Committee sees shortcomings in cooperation between European secret services

The domestic secret services in Schengen states exchange real-time data on terrorism and operate a database of individuals. A Dutch review of the cooperation has revealed several deficits. The data protection commissioners in the member states involved thus need to work together to ensure oversight.

For almost two years, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has been cooperating with 29 European intelligence services on an “operational platform” in The Hague. The system belongs to the “Counter Terrorism Group” founded in 2001 by the “Club de Berne”, the informal group of domestic secret services of EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland. The services involved operate a real-time information system and a shared database. The focus is on Islamist terrorism. The authorities do not only cooperate virtually, but also send liaison officers to The Hague.

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Sharp increase of secret alerts in the Schengen Information System

European police forces and secret services use SIS II for covert surveillance of persons and property. The authorities are informed about suspects’ itineraries and persons accompanying them. The EU interior ministries are now discussing the further expansion of this surveillance method. Hits could be reported to several or all member states.

By Matthias Monroy

Secret alerts are being issued for increasing numbers of people in the European Union. This emerged from the Federal Ministry of the Interior’s response to a written inquiry. According to that, 129,412 persons were placed under secret surveillance using the Schengen Information System (SIS II) last year. In 2016, this figure was around 80,000. No information is available regarding the reasons for this sharp increase.

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Five million euros for Europol’s “decryption platform”

The EU is looking to improve its capabilities to circumvent and crack encryptions. Member states are to invest in hardware and software with Europol coordinating these efforts

By Matthias Monroy

The police agency Europol is set to receive a further 5 million euros to reinforce its capabilities with regard to decrypting content, as was reported by the European Commission in its Thirteenth progress report towards an effective and genuine Security Union. According to the report, the money will be set aside in the Europol budget for 2018. The Commission had already pledged these funds in its twelfth progress report, but did not disclose the amount until 24 January. Prior to this, the EU home affairs ministers had called for further support at their December meeting.

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EU migration control: easier access to satellite intelligence

Earth observation is playing an increasingly important role in European security and defence policy. Greater synergies are to be achieved between civil and military capabilities in future. This is being trialled in the field of migration control: satellites are providing information about refugees’ “hiding places”, among other things. The border agency Frontex is one of the organisations using this information.

By Matthias Monroy

The European Union is now making security-related information from satellite intelligence available using a software application named “GeohuB”. The tool was developed in the framework of the multi-level project “Geospatial Information to Support decision Making in Operations” (GISMO), launched in 2014. The agency responsible is the European Defence Agency (EDA). GeohuB is intended to facilitate geospatial intelligence. According to EDA, it covers “land, sea, airspace and cyber”.

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Military intelligence for Europol

The EU plans to strengthen the linkages between its internal and external security structures. In future, military information will increasingly be used in combating terrorism and organised crime. Cooperation is being tested first in the field of migration.

Matthias Monroy

The European Union is planning the establishment of „Crime Information Cells“ (CIC) for the exchange of data between the police, military and secret services. The intention of the players involved is to reinforce the “external dimension of internal security”. The “Crime Information Cells” would strengthen linkages between civil and military EU missions. This would apply to Common Security and Defence Policy missions (CSDP) and the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), which fall within the remit of the European External Action Service or European Commission.

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Border surveillance technology for new Libyan search and rescue zone

By Matthias Monroy

Libya is to become the first third-state to join the EU’s satellite-supported “Seahorse Mediterranean” network. The Italian military is currently setting up the necessary control centres, to be followed by a new application for a search and rescue zone, supported by Italy. In the end, the Libyan coastguard is to coordinate all maritime search and rescue missions itself.

Shortly after Muammar Gaddafi‘s fall from power in 2011, the European Union attempted to incorporate Libyan border surveillance into European systems. Just one year later, rebels in the first post-revolution government signed a declaration with the intention of establishing maritime situation centres in the capital Tripoli and in Benghazi. The Libyan coastguard, which is part of the military, was to be linked with the Mediterranean Border Cooperation Centre (MEBOCC) in Rome. Libyan border guards would then have been provided with information from the European states bordering the Mediterranean in real time, in order to prevent refugees from crossing to Italy and Malta.

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Germany funds new border control technology in Tunisia

Tunisian border authorities are receiving equipment and training assistance from the German Bundeswehr and the Border Police in the course of a number of projects. Existing measures are now being extended. Manufacturers of surveillance technology stand to benefit.

By Matthias Monroy

The Federal Government is helping Tunisia pursue the ongoing development of an electronic border surveillance system. A section that has already been constructed is now being extended along the Libyan border to the border town of Borj El Khadra in the Sahara. This was disclosed by the Federal Ministry of the Interior in response to a minor interpellation. The overall project is being planned together with the US Government. The intended recipient of this “training initiative” is the Tunisian military.

The American Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has been tasked with the concrete implementation of these measures. Costs of extending the installations are not known. The financial aid received from Germany is explained vaguely as being “in the tens of millions”.

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EU language biometrics projects: research for police and intelligence services

Voice samples can be analysed in order to identify unknown persons in tapped telephone conversations, audio chats and video files. If the technology were applied to internet nodes, then it would be of particular interest to intelligence services.

By Matthias Monroy

The Speaker Identification Integrated Project (SIIP) on the use of speech biometrics by the police, co-financed by the European Union (EU), has successfully passed its final test. This was announced by the international police organisation Interpol in a press release. SIIP’s objective is to identify and locate “criminals and terrorists” through the analysis of their voices.

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Andrej Hunko talks in PACE current affairs debate on the need for a political solution to the crisis in Catalonia

Opening speech of Andrej Hunko in the current affairs debate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on "The need for a political solution to the crisis in Catalonia" on 12th October 2017. The debate was proposed by the Unified European Left (UEL) group. A video of the whole debate in English is available here. The verbatim records can be found here.

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“Permanent Structured Cooperation” cements the militarisation of EU foreign and security policy

As a significant precursor to a “European Defence Union”, the EU Treaties provide for an instrument known as Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). This military union enables a group of EU Member States to cooperate more closely in the matter of security and defence policy. In return for this, they enter into binding commitments to, for example, increase their defence spending and integrate their security and defence policy. The German Government is one of the driving forces in seeking to advance a military core Europe through PESCO. At the Foreign Affairs Council on 11 December, Permanent Structured Cooperation is to be formally established through a Council Decision.

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