EU
Europe's justice and interior ministers push for closer relations between internal security authorities and industry
17.07.2013


The Council of the European Union is hoping to strengthen the involvement of Europe's internal security agencies in "security-related research and industrial policy", calling on Member States' authorities to provide more support for the European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (ENLETS), a working group that last year agreed on a series of "priority areas" that include drones, covert surveillance, remote vehicle stopping and non-lethal weapons.

A set of conclusions on the issue was published on 10 July, following agreement at the early June meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, which is made up of Member States' Justice and Interior ministers. [1] The conclusions include concrete proposals for developing closer relations between internal security authorities, industry, and research institutes, although they are not legally binding on Member States.

ENLETS, the body that will be given the job of developing closer relations between internal security authorities and industry, was established in February 2008. More than four years later, at a meeting in Cyprus in September 2012, the group - made up of representatives of police forces' science and technology departments from across Europe - agreed upon seven "priority areas" for further work:

  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Systems, led by Cyprus;
  • UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or drone, led by the Netherlands);
  • OSINT (Open Source Intelligence, such as that from newspapers or websites, led by Romania);
  • Covert listening, in which Poland, the UK and the Netherlands (leader of the group) will exchange info and join an unspecific "running project";
  • ISINT (Instrumentation Signals Intelligence, a subset of SIGINT or Signals Intelligence, led by Romania);
  • Remote vehicle stopping, led by the UK;
  • "Protective vest/materials and non-lethal weapons", led by France. [2]

There is no reference in the conclusions to fundamental and human rights, civil liberties, data protection or privacy. There is one mention of "better integrating the societal dimension", a term used within the EU institutions to refer to the social and ethical issues raised by security research.

Nevertheless, the Council clearly indicates that drones, riot gear, eavesdropping equipment and other "adequate technologies" will be given increased attention in the years to come:

"ENLETS if properly supported could further enhance proper coordination between Member States to public procurement and become a leading European platform for strengthening the internal security authorities' involvement in security-related research and industrial policy and thus bridging the gap between the end users and providers of law enforcement technologies."

If the Council's conclusions have the desired effect, the ENLETS 'Core Group' will "be the EU technology watch function for internal security research and industrial policy", and the Council hopes it will undertake a number of tasks:

  • "Monitor closely and coordinate the development of new technologies and support a proactive involvement with research institutes and industry";
  • "Develop an EU overview of the internal security authorities' user needs";
  • "Share knowledge of best practices, innovative ideas and research projects in the Member States and Agencies";
  • "Assist in defining technical standards (guidelines and best practices)";
  • Provide advice to Member States issuing tenders for technology purchases;
  • Give the Commission "technical advice… in relation to relevant procurement procedures"; and
  • "Explore funding opportunities" - for example with the forthcoming €4.6 billion Internal Security Fund and the €80 billion Horizon 2020 "research and innovation" programme - and ensure that these are followed up by internal security authorities.

In order to carry out these tasks, the Council says that the Core Group should:

  • Act as "the central contact point for the Member States' law enforcement technology services" and for "close cooperation with the Commission's relevant services, in particular the Joint Research Centre", both of whom will be invited to Core Group meetings "as appropriate";
  • "Serve as the EU's central end users contact point for technology suppliers";
  • "Closely cooperate" with EU agencies such as Frontex, Europol, CEPOL, the EU Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems, all of whom should "as appropriate" be invited to participate in Core Group meetings; and
  • "Prepare proposals and joint initiatives for the ENLETS meeting".

The Council's conclusions also call upon the Commission to "take into account the need for a swift and flexible manner of financing the activities of the ENLETS Core Group" and to "to consider the organisation of regular meetings between the law enforcement community, the Commission Services and the technology suppliers." It should also "enhance the use of the 'pre commercial procurement' instrument" and "participate, where appropriate, in the activities of the Core Group".

Pre-Commercial Procurement is, according to the European Commission, "an approach for procuring R&D [research and development] services" through which public authorities, "acting as technologically demanding first buyers of new R&D… drive innovation from the demand side." [3] Put more simply, this means the procurement by public authorities of "goods that are on the market (or very close to it)", [4] which may or may not lead in the future to the development of wider private markets for such goods. The Commission clearly hopes that ENLETS will be able to make use of its procurement policies in beefing up the technology available to internal security authorities.

Member States, meanwhile, are called upon in the Council's conclusions to:

  • "Consider participation in ENLETS and nominate a National Contact Point (NCP) to the ENLETS network";
  • Ensure that at least five Member States "are represented at the Core Group to exercise its function";
  • Provide the "sufficient time and resources" for experts working on ENLETS-related projects;
  • "Request access for their NCPs to the Europol Platform for Experts which would serve as a platform for the dissemination of information concerning new technologies";
  • Ensure that there is "close coordination" between ENLETS, COSI (the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security), the Law Enforcement Working Party and "other relevant Council bodies";
  • "Consider opportunities to enhance the cooperation between public authorities and the private sector"

EU agencies such as Europol, Frontex and CEPOL will also be welcome to "participate, where appropriate, in the activities of the ENLETS and in particular the security technology watch function."

While the Law Enforcement Working Party appears to have the closest links with ENLETS, COSI has also taken a clear interest. In February the group discussed the draft version of the Council's conclusions and "it was generally agreed that ENLETS should be reinforced and that the link to the scientific community should be strengthened." [5] The Lithuanian Presidency of the EU (which runs from July until December this year) outlined its priorities for COSI at the end of June, one of which is working with ENLETS. [6]

The Council clearly has hopes to advance the work of the network in the future. The conclusions state that:

"[T]he security technology watch functions for the internal security research and industrial policy could later extend its activities to fields of internal security other than law enforcement, such as civil protection, border control, or CRBN-E [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear explosives]."

It remains to be seen whether the future work of ENLETS will be more attuned to the potential fundamental rights implications of new and emerging internal security technologies. So far they have been given little attention.


Further reading


Sources
[1] General Secretariat of the Council, Council Conclusions on strengthening the internal security authorities' involvement in security-related research and industrial policy, 12103/13, 10 July 2013
[2] European police step up cooperation on technological research and development, Statewatch News Online, 26 November 2012
[3] Pre-Commercial Procurement, Overview
[4] John Rigby, Review of pre-commercial procurement approaches and effects on innovation, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, January 2013
[5] Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI), Summary of discussions, 6318/13, 13 February 2013
[6] Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI), Summary of discussions, 11265/13, 24 June 2013

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