The French Presidency of the Council is seeking EU-wide comparisons of every DNA profile held by police forces against all those held by other national police forces, as well as EU policing agency Europol, as part of plans to upgrade the ‘Prüm’ network of police databases. It also hopes to automate the police exchange of facial images by eliminating requirements for human review.
Half of the EU's member states "foresee high risks" for the plan to have the biometric Entry/Exit System (EES) border crossing database up and running by the end of September this year, citing problems with testing, procurement, training and the adaptation of border infrastructure.
The French Presidency is aiming to loosen restrictions on law enforcement use of "artificial intelligence" technology, with a proposal circulated earlier this week to modify certain provisions in the Commission's proposal. The proposed changes would make it easier to deploy mass biometric surveillance technology in public, and significantly reduce the transparency obligations placed upon the authorities, amongst other things.
A revised version of the EU's plan for migration cooperation with Tunisia contains a number of updates to the previous versions. It is clear that the North African country, which is in the midst of a wave of protests and a democratic crisis, continues to refuse to cooperate with Frontex - but the provision of millions of euros for an "integrated border surveillance and coastal communication system" is still going ahead. More money is also being provided, with the aim of targeting "young Tunisians prone to migration”.
Statewatch along with a number of other human rights organisations condemns the deportation from Spain to Algeria of Mohamed Benhalima, a human rights activist who faces a serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment in the North African state.
A proposed Council Recommendation on operational police cooperation covers "cross-border actions" (such as "hot pursuit, surveillance, joint patrols") and "trans-national actions" (such as "the deployment of law enforcement officers in another Member State during touristic season or a mass-event"). It aims to ensure a uniform legal basis for cross-border law enforcement operations within the EU. The latest compromise text removes a requirement for member states to be notified when officers from another state are to cross into their territory as part of a joint operation.
With negotiations on the laws that make up the EU’s Pact on Migration and Asylum making little progress, in January the French Presidency of the Council proposed a “gradual approach” – pickling out some elements on which progress could be made, and leaving others to one side. Key to the plans is the consolidation of political unity amongst member states and EU institutions (“Team Europe”) in order to further externalise migration control.
The French government has proposed EU action against “entities or individuals” that are “active in the spread of radical rhetoric” as a way to stop “the spread of extremist and violent ideologies and to prevent the radicalisation of new actors.”
On 28 March an extraodinary meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss "European coordination for the reception of people fleeing the war in Ukraine." A note from the French Presidency to other Council delegations, published here, seeks the views of justice and interior ministers on three issues: implementation of material and financial support to member states; the monitoring and coordination of movements within the EU; support to Moldova and relocation in the EU of Ukranian refugees currently in Moldova.
The French Presidency of the Council has kicked off a discussion on making changes to the Schengen Information System that will make it possible for a greater number of member states to access alerts on the “most dangerous” categories of terrorist, such as foreign terrorist fighters. Any such changes would significantly increase the amount of personal data shared between national authorities, and would require legal amendments to come into force.
The French Presidency of the Council is calling for national authorities to increase information-sharing with EU agencies Europol and Frontex "in order to anticipate developments and prepare for and implement a swift and coordinated operational response" to the activities of "criminal networks and individuals" seeking to take advantage of the war in Ukraine.
EU institutions have been discussion new rules to ease cross-border gathering of evidence for use in criminal investigations and judicial proceedings since 2018. A letter to the Council from the MEP responsible for the file says that "the Parliament has moved substantially towards the Council position," dropping a number of its initial demands. We are also making public the latest trilogue document on European production and preservation orders, showing the positions of the different institutions and a Council progress report.
A note from the French Presidency of the Council on the annual implementation of the visa readmission mechanism discusses "the place of readmission levers in the overall management of the relationship with third countries".
"Guns, ammunition, rockets and fuel are on their way to your troops," announced the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, in an "address to the Ukranian people" on Sunday 27 February. The address came after the European Council agreed to an "assistance measure" that will provide €500 million worth of weapons to Ukraine using funds from the new European Peace Facility. A Concept Note produced by the Council, publicly available here, outlines the possible pros and cons of that assistance.
EU border agency Frontex is to step up its role in Niger, where a liaison officer will cooperate with EU military and security deployments to try to boost control over the borders between Niger, Algeria and Libya.
An overview of cooperation on readmission agreements and arrangements with key countries, produced by the European Commission, show that the “external dimension” promoted under the EU’s Pact on Migration and Asylum treats non-cooperation with EU migration policy as worthy of sanction. Despite adopting a coercive outlook, these partnerships in which “readmission is an important component”, are described as “comprehensive, tailor-made and mutually beneficial”.
A revised draft action plan drawn up by the European Commission on a "comprehensive migration partnership" with Morocco now suggests that the North African country should be informed of "the potential benefits of a status agreement with the European Union" that would allow the deployment of Frontex officials on its territory.
The EU is aiming to convince Iraqi authorities to withdraw their opposition to accepting deportations of Iraqi nationals, establish “smooth cooperation” on readmission and integrate “return, readmission and cooperation” into broader EU-Iraq cooperation on migration. This initiative fits within a wider punitive mechanism that includes monitoring cooperation on readmission by partner countries to promote the “external dimension of migration management”.
This week, Frontex has finally acted on its obligation to create a Public Register of Documents, while it is simultaneously the subject of a reportedly explosive report by the EU’s anti-fraud body – a report which is not (yet) public. The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee (LIBE) has demanded the report's publication.
The European Commission has proposed that the Council of the EU recommend that Greece "carry out independent investigations into all serious allegations of ill-treatment by the Hellenic Police and Hellenic Coast Guard at external borders" that are "capable of leading to the identification and punishment of those responsible."
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