Eurosur is a system of border surveillance that will connect national intelligence activities as well as beefing up technical surveillance with satellites and drones - says MEP
The Schengen free-movement of people agreement has been high on the agenda ever since some 30.000 people from the Arab Spring countries started looking for refuge, or a better life in Europe. To put the number into perspective: some 300,000 fled to Tunisia at the same time and were met with hospitality. In Europe, the small number was enough for Italy - one of the biggest economies in European Union - to close harbours and declare it could not deal with the new arrivals. It also led to a public fight between Italy and France on who is allowed to cross Schengen borders. The debate was refuelled by the former Danish government's decision to reintroduce border controls at the border to Germany and by technical surveillance at the Dutch borders.
The European Commission then proposed reforms to the Schengen regime. And the European Council is not only trying to keep the European Parliament out of the Schengen evaluation mechanism, but it is also in favour of having yet another reason for a reintroduction of border controls: insufficient control at the external borders. Member states, which wish to strengthen border controls, are also behind two border surveillance proposals: Eurosur and smart borders. Eurosur is a system of border surveillance that will connect national surveillance activities, beef up technical surveillance with satellites, drones and whatever else technology is deemed appropriate. Furthermore, it includes cooperation with third countries.
The smart borders package contains as a main ingredient, an entry-exit system that is supposed to register entries and exits – especially, for visa-exempted third country nationals. The aim of Eurosur is to prevent cross-border crime and irregular migration. A study, initiated by me and commissioned by the German Boell Foundation shows that this plan will have serious human rights implications. The right to asylum is undermined when refugees do not even have a chance to reach Europe and apply for asylum. The cooperation with third countries, which will be outside of the control of the European Parliament, could lead to migrants being pushed back before they reach EU waters. It could also put people in danger, if information is shared with third countries. Saving lives at sea is also mentioned as an aim, but nowhere is it specified how this will be put into practice.
The entry-exit system of the smart borders package will create a huge data base of third country nationals. It is not clear yet if it will include only alphanumerical data or biometrics. This obviously raises concerns with regard to data protection. It is not clear yet who will get access to the data. Border controls only or also law enforcement authorities? Indeed, the whole purpose of this instrument is not clear yet. Will it serve to make for better statistics? Is it meant to enforce return policies? The commission says it wants to deter over-stayers.
But just by knowing how many over-stayers there are, does not mean that we know where they are and whether they are overstaying for legitimate reasons or not. Using it as a law enforcement tool would mean criminalising all third country nationals. And the costs are immense: the commission has forecast a price of €1.1bn. This is a very conservative estimate. Similar projects in the EU and the United States have shown that the costs of such systems often double or triple, and that the outcome is not clear. Overall, it seems that member states and the commission are trying to respond to a perceived threat of migration and are trying to control borders better - regardless of whether this is necessary, proportionate and effective. Ska Keller is a German MEP and member of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament. Her study can be found find here
"Drone" also means "a boring speaker". I suppose the EU will send Herman Van Rompuy, so illegal migrants will have to listen to one of his speeches. Brussels has so many drones, the disarmament movement should do an investigation.
Harald Blaatind - La Societe por l''Amelioration du Canard