Outsourcing EU policy




The FP7 programme is supposed to be about implementing the ‘Lisbon strategy’ and making the EU the “most dynamic competitive knowledge-based economy in the world”. According to the Commission: “The ‘knowledge triangle’ – research, education and innovation – is a core factor in European efforts to meet the ambitious Lisbon goals. Numerous programmes, initiatives and support measures are carried out at EU level in support of knowledge”.

This includes the European Security Research Programme, which has just awarded Selex (a Finmeccanica company) a €10 million ‘research’ contract to develop an EU sea border surveillance system (the total project cost is €15.5 million, the EC contribution is €9.8 million).

The “SEABILLA” consortium, which includes a host of arms companies and defence contractors (BAE Systems, EADS, Thales, Sagem, Eurocopter, Telespazio, Alenia, TNO and others) promises to:

1) define the architecture for cost-effective European Sea Border Surveillance systems, integrating space, land, sea and air assets, including legacy systems;

2) apply advanced technological solutions to increase performances of surveillance functions;

3) develop and demonstrate significant improvements in detection, tracking, identification and automated behaviour analysis of all vessels, including hard to detect vessels, in open waters as well as close to coast.

According to the project synopsis, these surveillance systems will be used for:

a) fighting drug trafficking in the English Channel;

b) addressing illegal immigration in the South Mediterranean;

c) struggling [sic] illicit activities in open-sea in the Atlantic waters from Canary Islands to the Azores; in coherence with the EU Integrated Maritime Policy, EUROSUR and Integrated Border Management, and in compliance with Member States sovereign prerogatives.

In 2009, Finmeccanica revenues were somewhere in the region of €18 billion, of which 12% (approx €2.16 billion) was reinvested into Research and Development. Finmeccanica’s annual R&D budget is thus more than 10 times the annual budget of the entire European Security Research Programme.

Finmeccanica has already established itself as a global, market-leading provider of Homeland Security and maritime surveillance systems, as demonstrated by recent contracts with Libya and Panama (among others), each worth hundreds of millions of Euros.

This begs the obvious question of whether EU R&D subsidies for the likes of Finmeccanica are really warranted, and whether this kind of contract is strictly in accordance with FP7’s ‘knowledge triangle’ of research, education and innovation.

In reality the SEABILLA project has very little to do with innovation and everything to do with procurement. The EU is already committed to developing the kind of high-tech surveillance systems that only the defence sector can deliver [on maritime surveillance, see pages 36-40 of the NeoConOpticon report] but it lacks the mandate, budget and office to procure the requisite expertise, software and hardware.

Of course, were the EU to attempt to fulfil its ambitions by establishing a European Department of Homeland Security, there would be fierce resistance among the member states, not to mention civil society groups and a reluctant public.

What we have instead is an unaccountable EU procurement strategy – masquerading as research – committing hundreds of millions of taxpayer Euros in ‘seed money’ to security apparatuses that pre-empt both the political and legal authority needed to put them into practice.

It’s certainly innovative, but is it the kind of innovation that the architects of the FP7 programme had in mind?

Here is an e-mail from FRONTEX that we did not receive:

We would like to inform you that Frontex R&D Unit has issued a tender call for the conduct of two studies as follows:

1.    Ethics of Border Security

2.    Forward Study on European Border Checks

The deadline for proposals is 21 May 2010 and the studies should be completed within 6 months, in close consultation with us.

As companies/institutions/individuals with whom we have had fruitful contact in the past, we would like to invite you to consider making a proposal for one or both studies should the subject be within your area of expertise, or to forward this information to others who you believe can offer the skills we are looking for.

Full details on the tender can be found at: http://www.frontex.europa.eu/procurement/calls_for_tenders_above_60000/

Please note that the “above €60,000” figure mentioned refers to both studies TOGETHER, though each lot can be bid on separately.

Fresh from agreeing a Transatlantic government pay-off to end bribery and corruption investigations, it has emerged that BAE systems has been awarded a €2.3 million contract to develop a “Strategic crime and immigration information management system” (SCIIMS) for the European Union.

The contract has been awarded by the European Commission under the €1.4 billion EU Security Research Programme (ESRP), part of the ‘FP7‘ framework programme 2007-2013. The ESRP has been dominated by defence and IT contractors keen to diversify into the highly lucrative ‘Homeland Security’ market.

The EU contract tasks the SCIIMS consortium with developing:

“new capabilities improve the ability to search, mine, and fuse information from National, trans-national, private and other sources, to discover trends and patterns for increasing shared situational awareness and improving decision making, within a secure infrastructure to facilitate the combating of organized crime and in particular people trafficking to enhance the security of citizens”

Essentially an international police intelligence system for use by European and national agencies responsible for combating trafficking in human beings and organised crime (including EUROPOL and FRONTEX), SCIIMS represents the further outsourcing of EU policy to private contractors under the ESRP.

The stated objectives of the project are to develop “a secure information infrastructure in accordance with EU Crime and Immigration Agencies information needs” along with “tools to assist in decision making in order to predict, analyze and intervene with likely people trafficking and smuggling sources, events, and links to organized crime”.

The use of controversial information technologies such as data mining, profiling and predictive modelling are explicitly mandated by the EU contract, in spite of widespread concerns about their legality and effectiveness. Both the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights have recently called on governments to regulate and limit the use of these kind of technologies.

SCIIMS will mine “large data sets” in the hope of producing useful intelligence for state agents. This could include EU databases such as the EUROPOL and Schengen Information Systems, as well as national police and immigration databases in the member states. Unless these practices are regulated by national or international law, they will almost certainly be unlawful. Yet there is no mention whatsoever of data protection within the EU-BAE contract.

The SCIIMS project is coordinated by BAE Systems’ Integrated Systems Technologies Ltd. UK. BAE’s partners in the SCIIMS consortium are:

  • Elsag Datamat S.P.A., Italy (a Finmeccanica company)
  • Indra Sistemas S.A., Spain
  • Denodo Technologies SL, Spain
  • Universidade da Coruna, Spain
  • Columba Global Systems Ltd. (Ireland)
  • The Computer and Automation Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

___________________________

Start date:2009-11-01
End date:2012-10-31 
Duration:36 months 
Project Reference:218223 
Project cost:3595562 EURO 
Project Funding:2318996 EURO 
Programme Acronym: FP7-SECURITY
Programme type:Seventh Framework Programme 
Subprogramme Area:Secure strategic information management system 
Contract type:Collaborative project (generic)

Article from David Cronin for Inter Press Service published 13.11.2010, reproduced in full here:

BRUSSELS: Aid traditionally reserved for keeping victims of war and disasters alive may now be used for security-related projects such as the fingerprinting of refugees, European Union officials have decided.

Although the European Commission’s humanitarian office (ECHO) regularly publishes statements detailing how much food, medicines or blankets it gives to people in distress, it has drawn no attention to a widening in the scope of its activities in recent years. Through a partnership with the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the office has been financing the development of a computer system designed to store the fingerprints and other biometric data of refugees.

An internal ECHO paper from September 2009 suggests that support for such activities is necessary as part of an “innovative” approach towards improving the response of international agencies to crises.

But civil liberties activists are perturbed that humanitarian aid is being used to extend fingerprinting, a technique universally associated with criminal investigations, to refugee management projects. “If the EU wants to finance security projects, it should be doing so from money earmarked for security projects (rather than from humanitarian aid),” Ben Hayes from the organisation Statewatch told IPS.

Through a project known as Profile, the UNHCR has registered the fingerprints of more than 2.5 million refugees in some 20 countries since 2004. This project has received some four million euros (six million dollars) from the humanitarian aid section of the EU’s budget. As well as taking fingerprints, the UNHCR has stored images of the eyes of Afghan refugees who were returning to their home country after fleeing to neighbouring Pakistan. Identity documents are issued to refugees as part of the project, in cooperation with the governments in the countries where the refugees are located.

The UNHCR is also implementing a related project known as ProGres with the software giant Microsoft. While this relies mainly on basic data such as the names and birth dates of refugees, UNHCR sources say that biometric indicators are being stored in it on a trial basis in several countries. “There is considerable thought on expanding its use,” said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The UNHCR’s decision to resort to fingerprinting has been made despite previous concerns expressed by the organisation that refugees could be unfairly stigmatised if techniques associated with criminal investigations are widened to asylum and migration policies. The agency has, for example, been critical of the way the EU’s own system for fingerprinting asylum-seekers has evolved. Known as Eurodac, this system was originally confined to preventing asylum claims from being lodged in more than one EU member state, but the European Commission formally recommended last year that law enforcement agencies should have access to this database.

Gilles Van Moortel, the UNHCR’s Brussels spokesman, said that the agency has drawn up guidelines stating that police will not be able to scrutinise its fingerprinting files. “Sharing this kind of information for law enforcement purposes would not be in the keeping with the spirit of our work,” he added. “Our registration of asylum-seekers and refugees is purely being done for the purpose of international protection. While we fully understand the need for security, we are against the sharing of such data with law enforcement authorities.”

Hayes from Statewatch, however, described the UNHCR’s assurance as “meaningless”, given the history of the Eurodac system. “Once these things get big, their appeal for law enforcement agencies can become huge,” he added. “It becomes very difficult to resist calls that law enforcement agencies should have access to them.”

Ross Anderson, a specialist in computer technology with Cambridge University in Britain, said that while international aid organisations have long been involved in handing out ID cards, “poorly designed systems can do great harm.” He cited the situation in Rwanda during the 1990s, where people designated as Tutsis on official documents become victims of genocide, as an example of why great care is needed when ID systems are being set up.

John Clancy, the European Commission’s spokesman on humanitarian affairs, said that supporting the fingerprinting system is “not in any way a departure from ECHO’s traditional role” of providing emergency relief. “An effective registration system is crucial for refugees because it allows them to have their status clearly established and their rights respected,” he said. “They gain access to humanitarian assistance, social services in the host country and sometimes even local employment.”

Kathrin Schick from Voluntary Organisations in Cooperation in Emergencies (VOICE), a grouping of relief agencies, said that she had no difficulty with the principle of refugee registration. “It is very often forgotten by the person on the street that humanitarian aid is not just about food and milk,” she said. “It is also about ensuring that people are protected. It is very important to stress that humanitarian aid involves both protection and assistance.”

But Simon Stocker from the anti-poverty campaign group Eurostep said that the use of humanitarian aid for security projects “could be seen as compromising.” ECHO, he noted, is officially committed to ensuring that its activities are focused purely on relieving the distress of vulnerable people and that they are independent of more strategic political considerations.

ESRIF Final Report

The final report of the European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIF) was published in December 2009. At 324 pages it’s going to take us some time to digest. A 3 page Executive Summary is also available. Expect many similarities with the volumes below.

The European Organisation for Security (EOS) – a lobby group created entirely on the back of the “public-private” partnership that is the European Security Research Programme – has issued a Position Paper on Priorities for a Future European Security Framework.

The position paper contains “common messages” and proposals for the “consistent development” and harmonization of the EU security market to be “suggested” to the EU Institutions and Member States. “The suggested priority actions, in particular the establishment of sector specific EU Security Programmes, will now be proposed for discussion to the new Commissioners and the European Parliament”.

The Position paper is based on a series of EOS white papers:

The positions of the European Commission and ESRP are in any case so close to those of EOS that many of its suggestions are already EU policy. In other words: as lobbying efforts go, much of what appears above is already a done deal.

EOS members are: ALCATEL-LUCENT, ALTRAN, AMPER, ASD, ATOS ORIGIN, AVIO, BAE SYSTEMS, BUMAR, CEA, COTECNA, CORTE, D’APPOLONIA, DASSAULT AVIATION, DIEHL, EADS, ENGINEERING, EDISOFT, ERTICO, FINCANTIERI, G4S, HAI, IBM, INDRA, IVECO, KEMEA, SAGEM SECURITE, SELEX SI, SIEMENS, SMITHS DETECTION, SAAB, TELETRON, TELVENT, THALES, TNO.

From the organisation that brought you harmonised EU standards for the interception of telecommunications…

20 – 22 January 2010, Sophia Antipolis, France: The annual ETSI Security Workshop will bring together international Standards Developing Organisations (SDOs) and security experts to discuss recent developments, share knowledge, identify gaps and co-ordinate on future actions and work areas.The workshop will include overviews of the work being done in the area of security across standards and technical bodies, along with presentations from major organisations involved in security initiatives.

ETSI is now calling for papers. Abstracts (not exceeding an A4 page) presentations should be sent to events@etsi.org , together with the title of the presentation, name and coordinates of the presenter and the topic of reference as listed below by 9 October 2009. Presentations should have a focus on SECURITY INNOVATION . In particular ETSI welcomes papers on the practical implementations, and issues such as practical use of standards, the human factors and examples of insecurity.

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