News Digest: Round-up of news stories from across the EU (5.2.16)

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BIOMETRICS: 4F allows the use of smartphone finger photos as a contactless fingerprint identification system to match with legacy databases (Biometric Update, link): "Developing an efficient and effective fingerprint biometric system has never been more essential. Preliminary findings demonstrate the capability of a new, proprietary fingerprint biometric system, 4FingerID (4FTM), to produce high quality matches against prints acquired using flatbed fingerprint scanners. The 4F technology requires only a smartphone’s rear-facing camera and its flash to capture multiple fingerprints simultaneously and, as such, opens the door to portable, cost-effective matching against existing legacy databases held, for example, by government bodies."

ESTONIA: One of Estonia’s most powerful agencies embroiled in scandals (BBN, link): "There is reason to be worried about SMIT, the information technology and development centre of Interior Ministry that is one of the most powerful and secretive government agencies and controls all national security IT systems, investigative TV programme Pealtnägija (Eyewitness) reported yesterday."

Fifth workshop on Data Protection in International Organisations (ICRC, link): "On 5 February 2016, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and the ICRC will host the fifth workshop on data protection as part of good governance in international organisations at the ICRC Humanitarium, in Geneva."

France, Belgium step up security cooperation (EUobserver, link): "France and Belgium pledged on Monday (1 February) to reinforce their cooperation against Islamic terrorism and called for a "European security pact".

Meeting in Brussels, Belgian and French prime ministers Charles Michel and Manuel Valls also tried to diffuse tension between the two countries. Belgium was criticised after it emerged the authors of the November Paris attacks came from Brussels."

German police arrest suspected terrorists (EUobserver, link): "German police arrested a man in Berlin and a woman and a man near Cologne on Thursday (4 February) for what they believe may have been preparation for a terror attack in the German capital.

Police raids were also operated in Hannover. Two other men are still being hunted by security forces, which are expected to publish photos on Friday."

Germany and Netherlands sign defence agreement (EUobserver, link): "German soldiers will be able to use a Dutch warship under a cooperation agreement signed Thursday by the two countries' defence ministers. Under the agreement, still to be ratified, German commando units will be able to use the supply ship Karel Doorman, equipped to carry Leopard 2 tanks."

SWEDEN: Russian menace pushes Sweden towards Nato (BBC News, link): "In the middle of the Baltic Sea, a chilly east wind blows across a former Cold War frontier.

After more than 20 years of strategic irrelevance, and thanks to increasingly unpredictable Russian behaviour, Gotland is back in the spotlight.

It is the latest chapter in the island's long military history, and one returning soldier is thrilled."

UK: Early day motion in the House of Commons: MILITARY INTERVENTION IN LIBYA (Parliament, link): "That this House notes with concern the reports that the UK is preparing to provide weapons and support to tackle Daesh extremists in Libya; condemns reports that a team of RAF and intelligence personnel met recently in Tobruk to draw up potential targets for airstrikes in Libya; calls on the Secretary of State for Defence to make an urgent statement to the House on plans for military intervention in Libya; and urges the Government not to undertake any military action without the approval of the House."

May wants police commissioners to set up free schools for 'troubled children' (The Guardian, link): "Elected police and crime commissioners should be given the power to set up their own free schools to support “troubled children”, Theresa May has announced.

The move will be part of a major expansion of the powers of police and crime commissioners into the areas of youth justice, probation and court services to be proposed after their second set of elections take place in May."

UK: Modern slavery? The UK visa system and the exploitation of migrant domestic workers (LSE, link): "It might be hard to believe that a domestic worker – or anyone – is currently forced to sleep on a bathroom floor or is locked up in a house. Yet such experiences are very real for those who come to the UK on an overseas domestic worker visa, writes Virginia Mantouvalou. She explains how the current system – which provides a six-month, non-renewable right to stay – does not allow such workers to change employers. Those who run away due to appalling experiences are thus unable to find a new job and become undocumented. She writes that changing the visa system is the only way forward, if the UK is to treat everyone as human."

UK: Sarah Reed wrote to family 'she had been sexually assaulted' in hospital (The Guardian, link): "The prisoner on remand who died in her cell last month wrote to her family to say she had been sexually assaulted while receiving treatment at a secure mental health unit.

The Guardian has learned that Sarah Reed, 32, was charged with grievous bodily harm with intent over the incident in October after striking back at her alleged abuser. But rather than being released back into a secure hospital, she was held on remand at Holloway prison, north London, where she was found dead on 11 January."

UK: Six reasons you can't take the Litvinenko report seriously (The Guardian, link): "An inquiry into the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in the heart of London in 2006 has concluded that he was “probably” murdered on the personal orders of Vladimir Putin. This is a troubling accusation."

UK-ECHR: Is the European Court of Human Rights buckling under Westminister pressure? (UK Human Rights Blog, link): "In the last four years there were some 80 judgments where the UK was the respondent and in about 40 of those cases one or more violations were found. This does not seem to be particularly (statistically) out of step with previous periods. However do the key cases suggest the widening of the margin of appreciation for the UK?"

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