EU funding for network developing surveillance, intelligence-gathering and remote vehicle stopping tools

The European Commission is to give significant financial backing to a European police technology network that is currently looking at ways to improve "best practices" across the EU in automatic number plate recognition, intelligence-gathering, video surveillance systems, and remote vehicle stopping.

A spokesperson for the Commission's Directorate-General for Home Affairs has confirmed to Statewatch that the European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (ENLETS) will receive €500,000 for its work in 2015, the same amount foreseen in an ENLETS document from November 2014 outlining the network's progress "and the need to improve the use of its potential to full extent." [1]

Other entities being directly funded by the Commission in 2015 through the Internal Security Fund - Police are ATLAS (a network of Member States' police special forces), which will get €1.6 million; [2] ENFSI (the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes), which will get €1.5 million; and SSCAT (the Syria Strategic Communications Advisory Team), due to receive €1 million.

Currently, ENLETS is funded by contributions from the UK and the Netherlands worth €53,000, and has received €587,000 from the Commission to carry out a project called 'ENLETS Disseminates Best Practices' (EDBP). This focuses on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), open source intelligence, signals intelligence, video surveillance, and remotely stopping vehicles.

New funding will likely be used for activities foreseen in the November 2014 document: a full-time Core Group and associated administrative support, as well as half-time National Contact Points (NCPs) in each Member State's police force. NCPs are described as "the undisputed basis of the ENLETS network." [3]

Tools for the job

The prominence of the European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (ENLETS) has grown considerably in recent years. In July 2013 the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council approved conclusions setting ENLETS a number of tasks, with the primary goal of "strengthening the internal security authorities' involvement in security-related research and industrial policy." [4]

The ENLETS 'Core Group', made up of representatives from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Finland and the UK, considers that new financing will provide "a more solid basis to fully implement the Council Conclusions".

It is currently unknown what the network intends to focus on in the future. In September 2012 drones and "protective vest/materials and non-lethal weapons" were agreed as "priority areas", alongside the technologies examined in the EDBP project, but the network is oblied to review its priorities on an annual basis. [5]

Other interests can be inferred from project proposals, although the detail are unknown. During 2014 the network was refused EU funding for projects on "Cybercrime and Telecommunication" and robotics. [6]

ENLETS is one of 18 sub-groups that report to the Law Enforcement Working Party, a working group of the Council of the European Union. [7]

Security research

The ENLETS 'Core Group Leader', Dutch police official Patrick Padding, also chairs the Secure Societies Advisory Group. This is said to "provide consistent and consolidated advice to the Commission services during the preparation of the Horizon 2020 work programme".

Horizon 2020 is the EU's €77 billion research budget, and €1.8 billion is available from 2014-2020 for the security research programme. Padding's position is described in a report on ENLETS' September meeting as:

"unabatedly important for ENLETS. The connection to industry and research results in mutual understanding and increased flow of end-user demands." [8]

Key documents

Further reading

[1] 'ENLETS activities and recommendations in relation to the implementation of Council Conclusions on strengthening the internal security authorities' involvement in security-related research and industrial policy', 14217/14, 4 November 2014
[2] 'EU police special forces network to become "more and more useful" and to receive increased financial support', Statewatch News Online, August 2013
[3] Ibid [1]
[4] 'Council conclusions on strengthening the internal security authorities' involvement in security-related research and industrial policy', 12103/13, 10 July 2013
[5] 'Europe's justice and interior ministers push for closer relations between internal security authorities and industry', Statewatch News Online, July 2013
[6] 'Report on the meeting of ENLETS held on 29-30 September 2014 in Rome', 15000/14, 4 November 2014
[7] General Secretariat of the Council, 'Overview of expert groups and networks related to the LEWP and the provisional planning of their meetings', 8709/14, 2 May 2014
[8] Ibid at [6].

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