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Statewatch has published an online ‘map’ providing a visual representation of, and information on, the data architecture in the European Union's "area of freedom, security and justice".
We have published a trove of documents obtained by the journalists Luděk Stavinoha, Apostolis Fotiadis and Giacomo Zandonini for an investigation into Frontex's controversial plan to expand its use of personal data to combat terrorism and "cross-border crime".
EU and member state officials have begun discussing a working agreement between Europol and the Israeli authorities. It would allow the exchange of personal data, including sensitive categories of data such as biometrics, racial and ethnic origin, or religious or political beliefs. It also includes derogations that would allow data transferred by Europol to be used in the occupied territories.
The EU’s police agency, Europol, has landed itself in trouble again. Having been formally admonished by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) late last year for its illegal processing of vast quantities of personal data, and in September for refusing an access request to the personal data of a political activist and trying to cover it up by deleting his data from the system, Statewatch can now reveal that the agency’s management board was in breach of the new rules governing the agency as soon as they came into force in June.
On 28 September the Council of the EU's Working Party on External Aspects of Asylum and Migration (EMWP) discussed migrant smuggling in the Western Balkans. Representatives of Europol, Frontex and the EU Asylum Agency were there to give presentations, which we are publishing here.
The European Commission wants to launch negotiations with Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Albania so that EU border agency Frontex can extend its zone of operations. Currently, Frontex operations in those states can only take place at the borders they share with EU member states, in accordance with the 2016 Frontex Regulation. Upgrading the EU's agreements with the Balkan states to take into account the powers granted to Frontex by the 2019 Regulation will make it possible to deploy EU border guards at non-EU borders - for example, between Bosnia and Serbia, or between Serbia and Montenegro. An agreement with North Macedonia has already been signed. The aim is to halt the irregular movement of people through the Balkans towards "core" EU member states.
Negotiations are proceedings on the EU's proposed Regulation laying down rules to prevent and combat child sexual abuse, which will oblige communications service providers to undermine encryption and use unproven automated detection technologies in the hope of detecting online child abuse imagery. In mid-October, the Czech Presidency of the Council circulated compromise proposals on Chapter III, dealing with supervision, enforcement and cooperation. Two weeks later, proposals on Chapter I (general provisions) followed. They are published here.
At a meeting of the 'Schengen Council' on 14 October, interior ministers agreed to a number of recommendations on "the migration situation" supposed to address "the current challenging situation at the external borders". Those recommendations have not, until now, been made public.
On Tuesday last week Spain's Council of Ministers approved sending another €30 million to the Moroccan authorities for migration control purposes, the fourth such financial aid package since 2019, according to an article in Spanish newspaper Público.
On 22 September the European Commission hosted a meeting on the "Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism" (VSM), the latest ad-hoc system set up to relocate refugees from the EU's Mediterranean member states to other member states. It appears that the speed of transfers is not as quick as is hoped, with the conclusions noting that it is "crucial that all Member State initiate to implement the pledges," with the need for "a higher pace of transfers already ahead of the December Council meeting."
The growth of EU policy-making on the "external dimension of migration" shows no sign of abating. Two recent documents, published here, cover "migration and security challenges on the Silk Route" and a Ministerial Declaration and the 2023-27 Action Plan for the Prague Process.
The EU should "substantially" increase the number of deportations, the Czech Presidency of the Council has proposed, in a document that sets out four "priority actions in the external dimension" of migration. The Presidency also wants to pressure Serbia to change its visa policy; fight the "instrumentalisation of migration" by non-EU states; and step up the work of information-gathering networks to improve "monitoring of newly emerging trends and the related-early warning activities".
The Egyptian government has been arbitrarily detaining Eritrean asylum-seekers and plans to forcibly remove them to Eritrea. Numerous other rights violations have been documented. A international joint statement organised by Refugee Platform in Egypt and signed by over 30 groups, including Statewatch, condemns the actions of the Egyptian government.
At a recent event hosted by Europol's Innovation Hub, participants discussed questions relating to encrypted data and the ability of law enforcement authorities to access digital information. One issue raised was a possible "EU Vulnerability Management Policy for Internal Security," which could allow for "temporary retention of vulnerabilities and their exploitation by the relevant authorities." In effect, this would mean identifying weaknesses in software and, rather than informing the software developers of the problem, exploiting it for law enforcement purposes.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the work of data protection authorities (DPAs): they are chronically underfunded and lack the staff and resources to do their jobs properly. Figures released earlier this month show the scale of the problem for national authorities, and EU authorities have taken the unprecedented step of calling on the European Parliament not to approve the budget proposed for them for 2023 by the European Commission.
The Czech Presidency of the Council has inserted new provisions into the proposed AI Act that would make it possible to greatly limit the transparency obligations placed on law enforcement authorities using "artificial intelligence" technologies. A new "specific carve-out for sensitive operational data" has been added to a number of articles. If the provisions survive the negotiations, the question then becomes: what exactly counts as "sensitive operational data"? And does the carve-out concern just the data itself, or the algorithms and systems it feeds as well?
The Council Legal Service (CLS) is of the opinion that one of the legal bases used in the proposed Artificial Intelligence Act - an EU treaty provision governing police cooperation measures - "is not justified", and the Act can only rely on provisions relating to the internal market and data protection.
Along with a group of human rights organisations and academic experts, we have signed an open letter to an EU-funded research project, ITFlows, which is developing a tool to "predict migration flows" and "detect risks of tension related to migration". The letter calls on the consortium to "immediately halt the use of the EUMigraTool and stop pursuing the use of any and all technologies that can be used in securitisating migration, and criminalising movement and solidarity with people on the move."
Information released by the Home Office and Crown Prosecution Service in response to freedom of information requests gives some indication of the scale and scope of cooperation under the UK-Greece Joint Action Plan on migration and 'Project Invigor', "the UK’s organised immigration crime taskforce set up to target the criminal networks behind people smuggling impacting on the UK."
Three internal Council documents on the forthcoming multiannual policy cycle on European integrated border management: comments from the member states on the European Commission's policy document published in May, and an initial and amended set of draft Council conclusions on the forthcoming policy cycle.
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